St. Nicholas’ Church is a unique place on the map of Poland and Europe. For the local community, it is an important place of worship, but also in social meetings. It would be difficult to find a family living in the Old Town whose history is not related to this church in one way or another. From the perspective of world heritage, it is a valueless piece of architecture, taking into account its history and interior.
The church is not an average place. It is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Gdańsk. Visited by thousands of people every year stays one of the most important parts of every single tourist tour. Moreover, its history makes it even more incredible.
The church almost as old as the city of Gdańsk
St Nicholas’ Church was the first Catholic church in the city and the only one that survived World War II. Although the currently existing church comes from the 14th century, the first one comes from the end of the 12th century. The Dominican Order received it in 1227 from the Duke of Pomerania and since then has played an important role in the history of Gdańsk. During World War II, St Nicolas’ was a place where many people received help from the parish. Although it was a time when it didn’t belong to the Dominican Order, it is one of the most heartwarming parts of the history of this place.
The history of the church is related to all of the most important historical events since 1227. For most of the time, it had belonged to the Dominican Order. The monks were important figures in the most significant historical events. Their church was built in the area which is now the city center. Its interior includes a golden altar, many precious religious paintings, and sculptures. Most of the oldest artifacts are dated back to the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the treasures of the church is an icon of St Mary the Victorious. The marvelous piece is dated back even to the 10th century and its history is well documented due to the numerous miracles received due to giving the prayers in front of this painting. According to some legends, it is a copy of the icon made by St Luke.
The tragedy of St Nicholas
Currently, the situation in the Dominican St. Nicholas’ Church is dramatic. For as yet unknown reasons, the vault of this globally unique medieval church cracks, and the floor become deformed. After almost eight hundred years from the arrival of the Dominicans to Gdańsk, the church had to be closed.
On a press conference held on 31st October 2018, we learned that currently the church, dating back to the 14th century, threatens to collapse. The first alarming symptoms were noticed in the spring, and the friars managing the church immediately notified the appropriate bodies. The situation was gradually becoming worse and on 30th October 2018, the prior, Maciej Okoński, decided to close the church for the congregation. It is a huge blow to the whole community.
The church of the people
In the last months, the Dominicans in Gdańsk performed many repairs and upgrades in the church. Apart from the works related to the conservation of the altars and other works of art, the medieval church was equipped with a new heating system, a modern sound amplification system increasing the comfort of people using hearing aids, and a water draining system. The engagement of the friars resulted also in several discoveries of high-class historical artifacts, including an original Dominican bell from the second half of the 18th-century and a 17th-century wooden sculpture.
Although the congregations of many other churches decrease, the commonly called Nicholas every day teems with hundreds or thousands of Christians. The Dominican convent is a home to many active prayer groups and the venue of concerts, lectures, training, art workshops etc. It is not only a place of worship but also a cultural heart of the historical part of Gdańsk.