THE MODEL OF THE WESTWORK OF THE PARISH CHURCH IN CHELMNO
The parish church of Our Lady in Chelmno is the main church of the city which the Teutonic Knights chose to become the capital of the future state of the Order. The construction of this imposing edifice started at the end of the 13th century, from the east to the west. The chancel was completed around 1300, to be followed by a three-aisle main corpus with the lower part of the westwork. Finally, before 1333, the northern tower and part of the southern one were finished. The two-tower west-work of Chelmno gave way in Prussia to a series of imitations in Chelmza, Brodnica, Królewiec, and Nowy Staw, nevertheless, the origin of the monumental towers of the church of Our Lady has never been persuasively explained. Attempts to explain their form in reference to the cathedral facades in Strasburg and Regensburg (T. Mroczko) or the facades of prestigious city churches in Muehlhausen and Marburg, constructed under the patronage of the Teutonic Knights (O. Asendorf), have not brought satisfactory results. What has been overlooked is the immediate model of the Chelmno church facade, i.e., the late Romanesque westwork of the collegiate church of St. Victor in Xanten of the early 13th century. Similarity concerns the quarternary composition of the fronts of the Chelmno towers, modeled after the fronts of the side towers in Xanten. The interior of the St. Victor collegiate church westwork is a late version of the Western choir hall (Westchorhalle) developed in Rheinland, and it considerably differs from the interior of the Chelmno towered masses. This, in turn, resembles the late Romanesque two-tower westworks of the Rheinland churches in Limbourg and Andernach. The emulation on the Vistula of the forms taken over directly from the Xanten church, which was a prestigious collegiate church in the diocese of Cologne, might have had both artistic (huge towers could be easily seen from the rivers on which both cities were built), and ideological reasons. The Teutonic Knights imitated the towers of a church whose patron was a martyr, a warrior slain for his faith. Another reason for conscious formal borrowings might have been a legend that connected the founding of the collegiate church with Empress Helena, which suggested a convenient analogy for close relations of the Teutonic Order with the Empire in the founding period of the Prussian state. It is perhaps more intriguing that the towers of the Xanten collegiate church remained the model for the Chelmno church facade also in the late 19th century, when the top of the northern Chelmno tower was restored. Interestingly, the mutual relation of both churches in question has been forgotten by art historians for more than one hundred years.
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