St. Mary's Church

Gdańsk, Poland

St. Mary's Church (Bazylika Mariacka) is the largest brick church in the world. According to tradition, as early as 1243 a wooden Church of the Assumption existed at this site, built by Prince Swantopolk II. The foundation stone for the new brick church was placed on on 25 March 1343. At first a six-span bay basilica with a low turret was built, erected from 1343 to 1360. Parts of the pillars and lower levels of the turret have been preserved from this building.

In 1379 the masonry master Heinrich Ungeradin led his team to start construction of the present church. St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, the mother of all Brick Gothic churches dedicated to St. Mary in Hanseatic cities around the Baltic, is believed to be the archetype of the building. By 1447 the eastern part of the church was finished, and the tower was raised by two floors in the years 1452-1466. Since 1485 the work was continued by Hans Brandt, who supervised the erection of the main nave core. The structure was finally finished after 1496 under Heinrich Haetzl, who supervised the construction of the vaulting.

After the Reformation in 1529 the first Lutheran worship was held in St. Mary's. After 1557 King Sigismund II Augustus had granted Danzig the religion privilege allowing to celebrate the communion under both kinds the city council ended Catholic masses in all other parish churches in the city and those in its countryside territory, except of in St. Mary's. Here Catholic Masses at the high altar were continued until the city council stopped them in 1572.

In the course of the Partitions of Poland the city lost its liberty in 1793 and The Prussian government integrated St. Mary's and all the Lutheran state church into the all-Prussian Lutheran church administration.

Between 1920 and 1940 St. Mary's became the principal church within the Protestant Regional Synodal Federation of the Free City of Danzig. Starting in 1942 more or less movable major items of Danzig's cultural heritage have been dismantled and demounted in coordination with the cultural heritage curator. So also the presbytery of St. Mary's church agreed to remove items like archive files and artworks such as altars, paintings, epitaphs, mobile furnishings to places outside the city.

The church was severely damaged in World War II, during the storming of Danzig city by the Red Army in March 1945. After the basic reconstruction was finished, the church was reconsecrated in 1955. The reconstruction and renovation of the interior is an ongoing effort and continues to this day.

St. Mary's Church is a triple-aisled hall church with a triple-aisled transept. Both the transept and the main nave are of similar width and height, which is a good example of late Gothic style. Certain irregularities in the form of the northern arm of the transept are remnants of the previous church situated on the very same spot. The vaulting is a true piece of art, and was in great part restored after the war. The exterior is dominated by plain brick plains and high and narrow Gothic arch windows.

The interior of St. Mary's church is decorated within with several masterpieces of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque painting. The most notable, The Last Judgement by Flemish painter Hans Memling, is currently preserved in the National Museum of Gdańsk. Other works of art were transferred to the National Museum in Warsaw in 1945. It wasn't until 1990s when several of them were returned to the church.

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Founded: 1343
Category: Religious sites in Poland

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Maksim Blair (48 days ago)
This is one of the best churches I’ve been too. It’s very scenic. They have a wild selection of free displays to view. Also additionally you can pay to go the viewing tower. It’s a very long walk up, but you can see nearly all the city from the top. I’d definitely recommend going on a weekday to avoid having large crowds, but it definitely is worth the walk and it’s a great work out I believe around 500 steps. The displays show a lot of the rich history here!!
Pete Jones (4 months ago)
This church obviously has a huge history that cannot be touched upon without seeing and experiencing it with your own eyes. But it offers a very personal experience in and of itself and at a wider level that of Gdańsk and Poland in general. There are some amazing things inside, and the history is obviously key. I would recommend a trip up the Bell Tower although be warned that it is steep and some 440 steps (its a bell tower!). The views at the top though are worth it. Downstairs you have the astronomical clock and some gra es of national importance. Fascinating building.
Angelina Magpie (6 months ago)
Beautiful and the biggest catholic church in Europe with lots of fine exhibits to see. Great paintings and statues. I especially liked the one that shows Adam and Eve under the tree, that one is gorgeous. Nice place to clean your mind. Definitely would recommend visiting yourself if you’re planning to go to Gdańsk.
Elena T. (10 months ago)
The organ is impressive and climbing up the tower is absolutely worth it. It is some work to go up the 400 steps to the top and you probably shouldn't do it, if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. However, seeing the inside construction of the church tower and the roof top with the beautiful view is a great experience and totally worth the 12 zloty.
Viliam Paulo (12 months ago)
Nice architecture. My one complaint is that I was told to take my hat off which is fine however all the women and children didn't have to which is just discriminatory. This is the age of gender equality and it's about time we started acting upon it. Otherwise nice place, definitely worth the visit.
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