The History of the Protestant Church and Cemetery

2008-09-23 11:00:17
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The History of the Protestant Church and Cemetery
The cemetery at which residents of Świeradów-Zdrój bury their dead is over 250 years old. In German times, however, it enclosed a Protestant church, which today no longer exists. For this reason a history of the cemetery should feature also this church.

At the beginning of the 17th century the Protestant residents of Świeradów-Zdrój had neither a church nor a cemetery in their home town, and to participate in Holy Mass had to travel to the Protestant church in Mirsk. All church ceremonies took place in Mirsk, and the dead were buried at the cemetery there.

At that time Świeradów-Zdrój belonged to the Duchy of Jawor and Catholic Habsburgs. In 1654, during the Counter-Reformation, the Habsburgs closed the local churches in Mirsk, Gierczyn and Rębiszów. This meant that the Protestants of Świeradów had to travel for Mass to Pobiedna 10 km away, which was a long journey, and the route came to be known as 'the church road to Pobiedna'. The dead were still buried in Mirsk, however, with the coffin of the deceased being accompanied from the school to the last house in Orłowice, where it was met by the school from Mirsk.

In 1742 the situation changed when the area came under the rule of Prussia, the population gaining freedom of religion and at last being able to build their own church and cemetery. In December 1741 preparations began for the construction of a church, although the plans came to nothing. However, the population decided to resume the construction of a wooden house of prayer on the site where the cemetery is today to be found. The owner of the Gospoda boarding house sold the commune a plot for a church and a cemetery at a very favourable price and left it a house by the inn as a presbytery.

During the construction Holy Mass was held in a room next to the inn. The first pastor of Świeradów-Zdrój – Christian Bottner – preached the first sermon in 1742 for the holiday marking the descent of the Holy Spirit. The dedication of the church took place on 23 October 1742, and in the following year, during the construction of the tower, the bell was hung. Pastor Bottner passed away in 1758, and his successor was a pastor Bergmann from Przecznica. It was he who had a wall built around the cemetery in 1764, a feature which has survived to this day. For 30 years the people of Świeradów enjoyed their little wooden church, but its deteriorating condition meant ultimately that it had to be demolished.

In 1767 residents and pastor together decided to build a new and larger church of more durable materials. At this time the town numbered as many as 225 buildings, with the residents living modestly, supporting themselves chiefly through labour in the forest and from the fruits of work on the land. The construction of a church represented a great sacrifice.

The church was built with great panache in the baroque style. From the main gate it ran by way of a great nave with a finely decorated pulpit to an altar holding an image of the blessing Christ. Suspended from the beautifully executed vaulting were three huge chandeliers. On the first floor was a gallery surrounding the interior of the church, which provided seating for men. Women took their places downstairs. Hanging on the front wall of the gallery, in the vicinity of the altar, were images of the pastors. On the second floor rose an immense organ, and in each of the four corners of the church were smaller galleries. Children sang there during Holy Mass, divided into four choirs. In addition to the main entrance, three other entrances led into the church.

Thirteen years later, in 1780, the construction of the church was completed. Owing to a lack of funds, however, it was 12 years before the tower was added. The first presbytery was demolished in 1879 and a new built in its place, which remains standing. After 1930 the cemetery saw the construction of a chapel, within which the final parting with the deceased takes place to this day.

“In 1953 church services took place at the Protestant church on the last Sunday of the month. The Protestant congregation in Świeradów was served by pastor Gerstensztajn from Wrocław. A year later pastor Jajte arrived in the area from Warsaw and took up residence in Cieplice, serving the local church and the Wang church, our Protestant congregation here in Świeradów and the church in Lubań. It was also then that the first theft took place. The picture in the church altar was stolen. In the Parish House across from the church lived the Protestant Durynek family. This family selflessly took it upon themselves to clean the church and prepare it for services, and protected it from vandals and thieves. They also reported the theft of the picture to the militia. At that time the station was located across from the cemetery. The officers declared that because it was not a state building they were not responsible for investigating the matter. Several weeks later Mr Durynek prevented another theft. This time the thieves were trying to steal the crystal candelabra. From then on church services took place in the flat of the Duryneks. After that the devastation of the church proceeded quickly. Again and again the windowpanes in the church were broken, with people getting inside. This persuaded me to write to the Ministry of Confession on the matter, referring in the letter to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. I waited a long time for a reply. After four months I was informed that the matter had been directed to the Regional Office of Confession in Wrocław. More months passed before I finally received a reply: 'We find, following previous examination of the matter and the building, that the church is a class zero monument and subject to absolute preservation'. Unfortunately, the reply came too late, with the vandalized church now stripped completely. The organ had been wrecked, its pipes knocking about even in Czerniawa, along with the liturgical books and other items. What could be saved the Duryneks transferred to the building where they lived. The few Protestant families living in the area of Pobiedna, Czerniawa and Świeradów refurbished the rooms in a building next to the cemetery by their own efforts, and this later served us for a chapel. Earlier still the whole building had been occupied by the Municipal Office, and later the waiver of the right of ownership to the building by pastor Neuman was to be no more than a formality.”

(Told by: Stefania Dutkiewicz)

In 1973 the crumbling church was demolished.