Eighteen hall churches were erected in Silesia in the 14th c., these were mainly city parish churches, however, there were also: two collegiate churches (Wrocław, Głogów), two Franciscan churches, one Cistercian church and two Augustinian ones. Most often they were new but some were built by way of reconstructing or developing earlier church buildings.

In terms of the body and plan, hall churches can be divided into two groups. In the first one there are hall churches with elongated chancels and in the other one there are churches with a variety of other designs. In buildings belonging to the first group there are three churches with chancels closed with a straight wall, they were built in the 13th c. In the remaining churches in this group chancels are closed with a polygon, which was used from the second half of the 13th c. In the other group there are churches with a developed western wall. Two churches have a three-aisle, hall chancel (Nysa, 15th c.), in two other churches there are transepts and in the third one a sacristy and chapels form a pseudotransept.

In the 14th c. two new types of hall churches were developed in Silesia, the first one had an elongated chancel and a tower located asymmetrically in the corner between the chancel and the nave and the other one with a three-aisle hall chancel, which was the extension of the nave and was closed with three polygons on the eastern side. The first towers erected on the northern corner between the chancel and the nave come from the end of the 13th c. and are located in Kożuchów and Żary, later they were also built in the parish church in Paczków, the Church of St. Dorothy in Wrocław and in Środa Śląska, Wołów and Opole. Two traditional western towers were built only in the Church of Virgin Mary on the Sand in Wrocław. In parish churches in Gubin and Jawor western towers came from the 13th c. An exceptional solution are two towers on the eastern side of the nave, which are adjacent to the transept in the Collegiate Church in Wrocław.

A three-aisle hall chancel can be seen in the Cistercian church in Kamieniec Ząbkowicki (started in 1274) and in the Church of Virgin Mary on the Sand in Wrocław, in which each aisle is closed with a polygon. The church interior is long and its chancel extends into the nave. The eastern part is separated by a rood screen and parapet walls following a line of pillars between aisles.

The collegiate church in Głogów has a developed spatial design with original chapels on both sides of a long chancel and chapels which for the first time were built between the buttresses of the nave at the beginning of church construction. On the western in the past side there may have been one tower.

Fourteenth century hall churches in Silesia were high, spacious and well lit buildings. Their constructors decided to give up a classical system of vaults with ribs flowing to clusters of attached shafts. New forms of interior design were started in two churches whose construction began in the fourth quarter of the 13th c. – the Cistercian church in Kamieniec Ząbkowicki and the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross in Wrocław. In their interiors the classical system of walls fragmented by attached shafts was given up, vault ribs in the top part were set in walls and thanks to this walls were smooth with high windows. Smooth walls with high tracery windows contribute to the impression that aisles are larger than they really are. Pillars between aisles are octagonal, there are also octagonal pillars with pilaster strips emphasizing the vertical design of the interior.

All interiors are covered with vaults designed on square and rectangular projections. In the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross in Wrocław, for the first time, the nave was covered with a star vault and aisles with cinquesupport vaults. The combination of two bays with star vaults and rectangular cinquesupport vaults was repeated in more churches and one can consider this design typical of Silesian hall design. In basilica churches such combination was used only once in the chancel of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Wrocław. Asymmetrical cinquesupport vaults introduced a motion element to interiors. Even better dynamics was achieved in churches in which pillar spacing was different from the spacing of other supporting elements, like in the churches in Namysłów and Ścinawa. This could not have been an accident or a calculation error, it must have been a well planned concept of architects from the second half of the 14th c. Striving for asymmetry in church bodies resulted in giving up elevations with two towers and introducing single towers on the northern corner between a chancel and a nave. It is characteristic that in Jawor the elevation started with two towers was finally completed with one asymmetric tower.

A variety of forms is visible also in the design of tracery windows forming numerous compositions. Such elements as vesica piscis or flamboyant style of the late gothic appeared quite early. Most probably the first vesicae piscis can be seen in the western portal of the Church of Virgin Mary on the Sand in Wrocław, which was started about 1330. Could such forms have come from England? Certainly asymmetric vaults are of English origin and followed the “crazy vaults” of Lincoln Cathedral of St. Mary. English tracery is incredibly varied, portals are decorated with pinnacles, in Silesia it is similar. The mobility of medieval constructors was immense. In the 14th c. in Silesia one can observe English and Italian influences, the evidence of which are bracket sculptures (the Church of Virgin Mary on the Sand in Wrocław) and pilaster strips which were typical elements of vertical fragmentation.

Although Silesia became a Czech fiefdom, and thus theoretically there could have been more Czech and Austrian influences, in fact there still were medieval architects who created their own type of gothic architecture influenced by various districts and countries, however, they transformed and not only copied the existing forms. They started their activity in the 4th quarter of the 13th c. with large complexes in Wrocław and Kamieniec Ząbkowicki. There appeared new spatial designs, constructions and forms which shaped the architecture of Silesian hall churches in the 14th c., the architecture of a developed gothic style different from the European classical gothic architecture. The new characteristics were: spaciousness, asymmetry and dynamics.


Keywords: Silesia, gothic architecture, hall churches