Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Wroclaw


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St John the Baptist Cathedral is one of the most valuable monuments of Wroclaw’s church architecture. This was probably the first cathedral erected in the times of King Boleslaus the Brave, when a bishopric was established in Wroclaw in the year 1000. It was built of stone laid in lime mortar. The second cathedral, partly destroyed after the death of Mieszko II in 1034, was rebuilt under Bishop Jerome (1051–1062). Bishop Walter of Malonne began the construction of a new cathedral (1149–1169), which was completed by his successor, Bishop Zyroslaus II (1170–1198).

This was the first building constructed according to the uniform Gothic system, which is reflected in the structure, its aesthetic, and functionalism. Many borrowings are apparent in the construction. For instance, the sculptured decorations of the choir were directly influenced by the Gothic column ornaments in Magdeburg and Naumburg. The fourth cathedral, begun in 1244, still stands today. It was constructed in the Gothic style. Over the centuries, new elements were added to the original basilica, central nave, two aisles, and four towers. St. Mary’s Chapel, also known as the small chancel, and the side chapels were built in the 14th century. The first clock, ordered by the Council and manufactured by Master Swelbelin, was installed on the west wall in 1373. At the end of the 17th century, under Bishop Francis Louis of Neuburg, the interior was redesigned in the Baroque style: new altars were built, as well as a pulpit, balustrades, and four new chapels. A fire which broke out in 1759 caused serious damage to the cathedral. Its reconstruction continued until the early 20th century. At the end of World War II, the damage to the cathedral was estimated at 70 per cent, and it was uncertain whether the building could be restored to its former glory. The reconstruction proceeded in several stages, initially under the supervision of Marcin Bukowski, then, after 1968, under Edmund Malachowicz. Excavation works were simultaneously conducted, leading to the discovery of the relics of a Romanesque crypt that was part of Walter’s cathedral, as well as the tombs and remains of many bishops. Today the magnificently rebuilt Gothic cathedral is again open to the public. Since a lift was installed in the north tower in 1995, visitors can also enjoy a view from the terrace of the city and its surroundings.

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