Fot. Renardo la vulpo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Church of the Holy Spirit in Wrocław – a temple of unusual architecture

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Wrocław is one of the most interesting post-war religious buildings in the city. The present church, built in the late 1970s and early 1980s, has its roots in the inter-war period. Today, it is regarded as one of the leading examples of avant-garde architecture in Wrocław.

The immediate predecessor of today’s church, bearing the invocation of the Holy Spirit. was built in 1928-1929 to a design by Hermann Pfafferott at the intersection of Armii Krajowej and Nyska Streets. The brick church with a high tower had conservative architectural forms. It was heavily damaged during the siege of Breslau in 1945, and its ruins were finally demolished in the mid 1950s. From the late 1950s and early 1960s, efforts were made to build a new church, which failed due to resistance from the authorities. In the meantime, a bakery was built on the site of the demolished church. Finally, in 1972, the church was given permission to build a new building on a much more prominent plot of land closing the axis of Kamienna Street.

Construction of the temple. Source: Roman Catholic Parish of the Holy Spirit in Wrocław in the years 1929-2001 – Rozalia Najwer, Franciszek Nieckula Wrocław 2003

One of the conditions of the permit was that the whole investment be limited to one building, so the designers Waldemar Wawrzyniak, Jerzy Wojnarowicz and Tadeusz Zipser decided to build a one-building structure. Construction, carried out since 1973 thanks to the efforts of Father Stefan Wójcik, then parish priest of the Holy Spirit parish, was completed in 1981.

Crossroads from a bird’s eye view, 1980s Source: Wrocław from a bird’s eye view /1992/ Tadeusz Drankowski, Olgierd Czerner Ossolineum Wrocław – Warsaw – Krakow 1992

Already after the construction of the main body of the church, the foundation was gradually extended, with the erection of single-storey catechetical halls around the courtyard in 1978-1983, designed by Tadeusz Zipser, a free-standing bell tower in 1994-1995, and a new, more spacious vicarage building. The church has a modern form, inspired by the organic architecture and the Marian chapel in Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp, while at the same time referring symbolically to the historic architecture and the archetype of the church. Initially left in raw brick, the elevations with their numerous faults, as well as the stained-glass windows inserted in the seven pointed-arch windows of the eastern elevation, were intended to resemble the Gothic churches of Wrocław. The two-storey spatial form is a direct reference to the Church of the Holy Cross and St Bartholomew. The two-winged entrance staircase, on the other hand, is a conscious reference to the Baroque according to Waldemar Wawrzyniak. The shape of the roof refers to the helmets of the cathedral in Kutná Hora. The form of the church contains numerous symbols, including numerical ones.

Church of the Holy Spirit. Photo by Renardo la vulpo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The sculpted projection, housing in the eastern part the several-storey sacristy and vicarage rooms, is covered by a common roof of approximately conical form, surmounted by a cross set in a floral cup. The walls of the church are built of brick, the ceiling and vaulting are of reinforced concrete. The roof-tower structure is steel, covered with copper sheeting. The side walls are approximately 25 m high, while the total height of the church is 54 m. In the sparsely developed immediate surroundings, the church is a clear dominant feature, also closing the axis of Kamienna Street to the east.

Kościół Ducha Świętego
Photo Aw58, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The plan of the church takes into account the demands of the Second Vatican Council. The church’s single-space, approximately hexagonal interior of more than 800 sq m. (length about 30 m, width about 32 m) has more than 600 seats, with a further 1,400 people able to stand there. There are galleries on two sides of the nave. The organ was built in 1989 by Józef Cynar of Wrocław. The paintings in the interior, created after rejecting the initial ascetic concept by Waldemar Wawrzyniak and Tadeusz Pactwa, were done by Tadeusz Zipser and Barbara Stoksik.

Kościół Ducha Świętego
Interior image. Photo Av58, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the beginning of the 21st century, changes were made to the exterior of the church – without consultation with the authors of the building and with their objections, the façade was covered with systemic polystyrene insulation with intense orange structural plaster, and figural plasterwork was placed above the entrance, depicting, among others, John Paul II.


Read also: Architektura w Polsce | Architektura sakralna | Wrocław | Architektura PRL | Modernizm

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