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1974 | 4 | 268-284

Article title

Późnogotyckie hełmy wież wrocławskich i problem odbudowy hełmów wież katedry


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The skyline of Wroclaw’s historic centre in which the tower spires played a dominating role has su ffe r ed considerable losses as a result of great battle that was fougth here in spring of 1945. From among a total of nineteen spires shooting prior to 1945 only three medieval spires fu lly survived and the two others preserved in parts. After the World War II was preserved only one spire, namely that on the tower of the Holy Cross Collegiate Church. The restoration of the Old Town panorama although running slowly is being carried out very carefully and systematically. As one of its most important steps is to be considered the rebuilding of spires crowning the towers of the Wroclaw Cathedral. Tending to its completion the restoration of façades requires that also this architectural element be solved. The scarcely available illustrative materials did not until now allow to prepare a satisfactory version of design for reconstruction of its Gothic spire, whereas that later, i.e. coming from the Renaissance period, had never been taken into consideration at all. As the unique and at the same time most important illustrative source presenting the spire on the Cathedral’s northern tower can be handled the panoramic v iew of the town of Wroclaw shown in the „Chronicle” by Hartmann Schedel that was printed in 1493. However, the right interpretation of the above illustration made requirable a series of more comprehensive studies with which was covered an entire group of medieval spires of the Wroclaw towers. In the mid-fourteen century the erection of the most representative buildings of that town was nearly completed. During the early years of that century were erected the spired towers of Dominican Church and of City Hall. The erection of the remaining towers lasted throughout the entire fourteenth century and in some instances prolonged up to the eighties of the fifteenth century. In that particular case of Cathedral Church it has finally been completed in the second half of the 16th century and in addition already in Renaissance forms. Within his present study the author, basing on illu strative sources, data coming from written records and from investigations of relics and traces preserved in situ, has reconstructed the silhouettes of the seven late-Gothic spires, namely those on towers of St. Albert’s, St. Magdalene, St. Elizabeth, St. James’s, St. Matthew’s, of City Hall and of St. John’s Cathedral. This allowed to consider the drawing by Schedel more realistically and to utilize it as a fully reliable historic source. The spires crowning the Wroclaw towers represented a few kinds of pyramidal shapes characteristically situated on the tower terrace surrounded by a stone parapet. These structures having enormous heights, in some instances amounting to 25 and even to 60 m e tres, formed the final stage of the late Gothic architectural features clearly pointing to predominance of form over the then available constructional and material possibilities. During their lifetimes, oscillating between this of 47 and 124 years all they, except l'or that in Holy Cross Church, suffered destruction as a consequence of loosening of their joints and deterioration of material. In light of the present study the reconstructed silhouette of the Cathedral spire erected in 1416 had the shape of a square-based pyramid rising above the tower terrace surrounded by a stone parapet. The dimensions of the spire base corresponded to those of the tower’s interior. The heights of spires varied within a range from 26 (Holy Cross Church) to 59 metres (St. Elizabeth) counting from the level of terrace up to the sphere supporting the cross. The sloping angle of the spire sides, amounting to 82—86°, that is usually observed in the other surveyed Gothic spires of the Wroclaw towers in the case under discussion determined the height of 39 to 40 metres. The only doubt may arise as to the height at which was situated the upper floor gallery and thus as to the size of the latter. Of secondary importance seem to be the details of both gallery and crowning as it is well known that the gallery was decorated with eight gilded balls while the top ended with a gilded sphere and a cross. The previously planned restoration of the destructed in 1759 spires of Wroclaw Cathedral had as its sole objective the rebuilding of Gothic shapes and such plans were continued until the end of the nineteenth century. The designs presented by architect J. Ebers, in 1905, and by E. von Rechenberg, in 1907, did not gain an approval and in 1911 that of II. Hartung was adopted for execution. However, already in the course of its realization it has been partly altered. All the above designs were based on illustration in Schedel’s „Chronicle”, but all they interpreted it in different ways and let be said here — in general, quite unsatisfactorily. At present, in addition to reconstruction of historical forms, it is suggested to shape the spires in modern forms or to leave the towers without spires and with their crowning formed of terraces and parapets only. The reconstruction of the medieval architectural forms is suggested by both possibilities to recover them and the changes in architecture of neo-Gothic façades that have been introduced in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth century. However, with a Gothic spire was covered only the northern tower and at present a pair of spires is required. Thus the building of two spires would be something more than a pure reconstruction. It would be some kind of continuation of medieval idea whose realization has been broken by the style changes. It would not be the first undertaking of that kind in Europe and it seems that several views expressed here are speaking in favour of its starting.






Physical description




  • dr, Ins tytut Historii Architektury, Sztuki i Techniki Politechnika Wrocławska


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