Saturday, November 26, 2011

Broumov, Czech Republic

This church is found at the edge of the town of Broumov in Eastern Bohemia, just a few kilometres from the Polish border. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is the oldest wooden church still standing in the Czech Republic and one of the oldest wooden buildings in Bohemia. The settlement of Broumov was originally founded in 1171 and the first church was constructed on this site a few years later in 1177.
An invasion of the town by Hussite troops in 1421 caused severe damage to the church, and in 1449 it was struck by lightning and burned almost to the ground. The church was completely rebuilt in 1450-1451 in the form that we can see today. A windstorm damaged the tower of the church in 1550, which required extensive repairs. Further alterations to the tower and roof were made in 1811.
The church stands on a stone foundation and follows the plan of an elongated octagon in the Gothic style. Originally there were two entrances, one on the northern side and another on the western side. The roof is dominated by its slender tower which is one of the most striking features of the building's design.
The roofed porch gallery which surrounds the church was originally enclosed with wooden siding, but this was removed in 1779. Wooden planks attached to the walls of the gallery are covered with inscriptions which provide a chronicle of the town's history, recording the years of disasters such as fires, floods, invasions and the plague.
The wooden beams of the ceiling are decorated with stencil decorations of plant and animal themes. These decorations likely date from the time of the reconstruction in 1450, and they have a strong resemblance to those found in wooden churches across the border in Polish Silesia.
The main altar is designed in the rococo style and also features a late-Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary. In 2008 the church was declared a Czech national cultural monument.
The church is open daily for visitors in the summer months, but is kept locked for the rest of the year apart from occasional services and events. Broumov is at the end of a branch railway line with regular local trains running to Starkoč, a station on the main Trutnov - Prague line.

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