kościół na Piasku
Dr Zygmunt Łuniewicz z makietą. Fot. F. Hackemer

Until the 18th century, Wrocław’s Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek was crowned by a tall tower. Now a model of it has been created

For most of Wrocław’s monuments, the years of the Second World War proved to be the most devastating. However, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sand met disaster much earlier. On the morning of 30 January 1730, lightning struck its tall tower. Within three hours, the helmet along with the roof trusses on the church had burned down. After the tragedy, it was not decided to rebuild the destroyed part of the church, and the church still has a low, makeshift canopy on the tower. As part of their research, Dr Zygmunt Łuniewicz, in collaboration with Dr Rafał Karnicki, created a model of the former helmet, which shows the tower as it was viewed by 17th-century Wrocław residents.

The south tower of the Church on the Sand from the 15th century until 1661 was topped by a tier of watchtowers. Then a monumental 35 m high helmet was erected there, with which the tower reached a height of almost 85 m. The rich form of the helmet, taken from Dutch architecture and local tradition, had no direct analogues or imitations in Silesia. The structure survived for 63 years, its demise brought about by a fire caused by a lightning strike, after which the tower was covered only by a low roof in the form preserved to this day.

The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek before the disaster: “the beautiful helmet” – as it was called – still on the tower. Drawing from: Friedrich Bernhard Werner, Topographia oder Prodromus Delineati Silesiae Ducatus […], [rkps.], BUWr OR, ref. R 551 II.

kościół na Piasku

The appearance of the tower was previously known from engravings, but their interpretation posed many difficulties. Work on the model involved an analysis of written sources, iconography and analogies in the Netherlands. The result of this in-depth work is a detailed model of the tower and its helmet at a few dozen centimetres before the fire. Its creation was intended to provoke a broader discussion about the destroyed and unreconstructed helmets of towers in Wrocław and beyond. The model shows an object of ancient architecture with an extraordinary richness of shape and cultural content, absent from the public consciousness today.

Dr Zygmunt Łuniewicz with the model. Photo by F. Hackemer

“The model of the helmet of the tower of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek is part of a larger project in which I recall the lost helmets of Wrocław, and more broadly, Silesian towers. Previously, I have also done with Rafał Karnicki the helmet of the Church of Mary Magdalene in Wrocław, and an attempt to reconstruct the first helmet of the town hall in Oleśnica. In the near future I also plan to work on models of the towers of the town hall in Głogów, the castle in Brzeg, and, of the Wrocław buildings: St. Elisabeth’s Parish Church and the Cathedral,” says Dr. Zygmunt Łuniewicz.

Source: Faculty of Architecture, Wrocław University of Technology, materials by Dr Zygmunt Łuniewicz

Read also: Architecture in Poland | Monuments | History | Sacral architecture | Wrocław

Latest content on the site

Beauty is all around you