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

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Anna (33 days ago)
Me and my mum only went to go up the tower. It was so cool! The spiral stairs on the way up were nice to walk up but i wouldn’t recommend for someone that gets dizzy easily or doesn’t like tight spaces. The view at the top was incredible. You can see a full 360 around. I imagine it would be an incredible spot for sunset.
Joan (33 days ago)
Extraordinary interior. Spacious and vast church. Looks decently big on the outside, but even bigger on the inside. Many portraits and statues with well kept details. During weekdays, there's less people. Recommend going during 10am-12am for the best privacy ish. Entrance to the church is free, but going up the stairs to have the view cost not much.
Juyin Inamdar (2 months ago)
Was amazed by the architecture of this Basilica, hence decided to explore a little inside. The high ceiling is very impressive, Makes one wonder how was this achieved in that era. Another surprise was that, for 10 euros you can climb the tower’s view point for some breathtaking view of the city. And if you manage to go during sunset, it adds more essence to an already amazing view. However, the climb up the tower involves 400 odd steps and around 200 of them are turn steps, where you are just climbing a steep and narrow steps round and round. So if you are someone who are not comfortable with lot of circular steps please avoid it. Because once you start climbing this there is no turning back. But the view is so much worth it. A must visit for sure
Jorge Bernardo (4 months ago)
I was so impressed with the sheer size of this building popping up right from the heart of old town (some say it is the largest brick construction in the world while others rank it second) that I kept shooting it from every angle during my time in Gdansk. The interior is also notable with many outstanding features such as the organ and the clock. A must-see.
Lee Bond (4 months ago)
Very lovely cathedral. If you climb up the tower, it is hard work that definitely makes your thighs burn with the 409 steps but worth the burn for the views of the city. The clock located in the church comes alive once a day at 12.00 noon with lovely music and a theatrical performance. It does get crowded to view the clock, so go earlier to get a good spot
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