St. John’s Church in Gdańsk

As a result of an agreement between the Baltic Centre of Culture and the Gdańsk archdiocese, the St. John’s Centre was founded here in 1995.

The first record of a small St. John’s Chapel appeared in 1358. The construction of the three-aisle temple was conducted from approximately 1360. The construction work was completed at the beginning of the 15th Century. The new presbytery and transept appeared in 1415. The raising of the tower began, but was stopped by the order of the Teutonic Knights, which prohibited the erection of such tall structures in the vicinity of the Castle. The construction of the vaults and the tower was completed during the thirteen-year war. That was also the time, when the present form of the church was established. After Gdansk’s return to Poland, the Kujavian Bishop Jan Gruszczyński divided the city into six parishes. At that time, the temple became a parish church. During the 15th and 16th centuries, trade guilds, wealthier families and brotherhoods founded a total of 13 altars, among others dedicated to the Holiest Virgin Mary, the Holy Cross of St. James.

A problem appeared when the temple, which was too heavy and had insufficient foundations, began to sink irregularly on the unstable terrain. The instability of the building was also influenced by excessively deep burials. The construction was reinforced numerous times.

The Zachariasz Zappio foundation library was created at the north side of the transept in the 17th Century. Zappio was the sponsor and builder of the church and decided to give his wealth to charity and assistance to the poor after the death of his beloved daughter.

St. John’s Church became a Lutheran temple halfway through the 16th Century. The altars were replaced with a grand, gray sandstone Renaissance main altar with height of 12 metres, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The work of Abraham van der Blocke survived World War II and remains the symbol of St. John’s Church.

The church was burned down as a result of war operations in March 1945, but the walls, although damaged, survived, much like most of the artworks removed from the temple earlier. After the war, it hosted fragments of sculptures found in the ruins, in order to identify them and use them in the reconstruction of Gdańsk Old Town.

The tower was rebuilt near the end of the nineteen sixties, while the vaults were reconstructed during the nineteen eighties. The floor was reinforced and it soon may once again be covered with the renovated gravestones. Although the reconstruction is not yet completed, Holy Masses have been conducted in the church on Sundays and holidays since 1998. A large number of the church’s historical monuments are located in other Gdańsk temples. The Holiest Virgin Mary’s Church hosts the prospect with the choir organ. However, the artworks are slowly returning to St. John’s Church. The balustrade once located on the stairs to the Zappio library was returned in December of last year.

As a result of an agreement between the Baltic Centre of Culture and the Gdańsk archdiocese, the St. John’s Centre was founded here in 1995. The Baltic Centre of Culture was obliged to administer the reconstruction of the devastated building in order to adapt it to the combined functions of a concert and exhibition hall. The main principle of the cultural activity was to create a place open to various artistic projects and ventures, a place serving both artists and art enthusiasts, a place of natural synchronicity between the preserved historical and cultural heritage and contemporary times.

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