The first reference to the church in Spycimierz by Gallus Anonymus proves that it existed as early as in 1106. However, since the building of a temple required establishment of a parish, it should be assumed that the parish of Spycimierz was established before 1106 and it belonged to the Deanery of Warta. It was under the charge of diocesan priests. The parish’s status changed significantly in 1491, when it was incorporated into the collegiate church in Uniejów and put in the charge of a college of mansionaries. Spycimierz did not have its own parish priest until after 1865. After 1818, the parish was included in the Diocese of Kujawy and Kalisz, in the Deanery of Uniejów.
During World War II, despite the warnings, the parish priest Marian Chwiłowicz did not leave his parishioners, and, after being dislodged from the rectory, he moved to the organist house, from where he managed the parish. This is also where he was arrested by the Germans and taken to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was murdered on July 27th, 1942.
In 1943, the Germans barbarously pulled down the church, and then burnt the gracious cross, of which only the Head of Christ has survived. This remarkable relic of the gracious cross can be seen in the National Museum in Poznań, in the Medieval Sculpture section.
Parish priests and administrators of the parish of Spycimierz
Rev. Henryk Wieczorek (May – September 1945); Rev. Lucjan Zielonkiewicz (1945-1958); Rev. Karol Mendera (1958-1960); Rev. Zenon Mateja (1960-1971); Rev. Bronisław Karwowski (1971-1977); Rev. Wojciech Krzywański (1977-1993); Rev. Krystian Michalak (1993-1995); Rev. Krzysztof Czyżak (1995-2000); Rev. Maciej Dyoniziak (2000-2008); Rev. Wojciech Kaźmierczak (2008-2017); Rev. Dariusz Ziemniak (from 2017 till the present day).
History of the temple in Spycimierz
The first piece of information about a temple at the stronghold of Spycimierz dates back to 1106-1107, and it was recorded by Gallus Anonymus, who referred to Martin, the archbishop of Gniezno. Therefore, the church itself must have been constructed earlier. Nothing is known of this temple apart from what Gallus wrote, i.e. ‘it was a wooden church with arcades’.
The second temple, which was probably founded by an archbishop of Gniezno after 1347, was consecrated, which was proved by the marks on the walls. In 1612, it must have been very old, as even the oldest inhabitants did not remember under whose invocation the church was placed. Shortly before 1612, a new altar of Our Lady of Częstochowa was installed in the church.
Church in Spycimierz in the 18th and 19th centuries
According to the visitation documents as of 1728, the temple was under the invocation of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and the day of its dedication was celebrated on the Sunday following the day of St. Francis of Assisi. It was a wooden church with a longitudinal orientation and a ridge turret in the middle. The third altar of St. Onuphrius was installed in 1728. In 1779, the condition of the church was defined as ‘the most meagre’. The walls were deformed, and the ceiling was old. Although the shingle roof was extended and repaired, the ridge turret and the sacristy were in a pitiful state. In the high altar of the Holy Cross there was a painted image of the Christ Crucified with gilt ornaments. It was subject to special worship as it was considered to be a gracious picture, which was proved by numerous votive offerings plundered by the Swedish invaders and thieves.
Because of the poor condition of the temple, in 1780, bishop coadjutor of Kamiyanets-Podilskyi, Jan Mikołaj Dembowski of Dembowa Góra, who was the visitator of the collegiate church in Uniejów, authorised by archbishop Antoni Kazimierz Ostrowski, ordered the senior of the mansionaries, Wieczorkiewicz, to erect a new temple in Spycimierz. At that time, some money had already been collected and deposited with the canon of Uniejów, Sztein. The remaining funds were to be obtained through sales of silver, most probably coming from votive offerings.
The new temple was built quite soon, in 1783-84. This is also when the bell tower from Uniejów was probably moved here. At that time, a wooden church was built (partially from larch wood), with a wall base and a dome-shaped ridge turret, but with no chapel. In the middle of the temple, there was a small steeple. The church was consecrated by Rev. Jan Pigłosiewicz, the canon of Uniejów, as authorised by the consistory of Łowicz. This church was probably provided with old furnishings and placed under the same invocation. The high altar with the badly damaged figure of Christ crucified was painted black and gilded. Moreover, two statues were added: of St. Adalbert and St. Stanislaus. On the right-hand side in the altar of St. Onuphrius, a picture of St. Mary Magdalene was located. Next to the pulpit, on the left, there was the altar of Our Lady of Częstochowa, and in its upper part there was a picture of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1863, the silver cross was used to provide funds for the November Uprising. The temple was provided with all liturgical paraments needed. This decor did not change until the beginning of the 20th century.
The 20th century
In 1920, a new crucifix was placed in the church, and the old one was moved to the so-called Gethsemane. In 1929, a picture of the Sacred Heart, funded by Józefa Dzieciątkowska, was placed in the right altar. It used to be concealed with a picture of St. Onuphrius. In the left altar, a picture of St. Joseph was installed, which was used to conceal the picture of the Black Madonna. This is also when the outside of the temple was renovated.
World War II
World War II is a dark period in the history of the temple and the parish. This is how one of the parishioners described it: ‘What appears before my eyes are moments full of danger and fear, including dramatic scenes of our parish church being plundered. I do not remember what year, month and day it was (1943), but, undoubtedly, it was a day of great suffering for the whole parish, and also for our family. Next to the church in Śpicimierz, there was a big hay cart with two black horses harnessed to it. The church was open: the church furnishings were being carried out – standards, feretories, crosses and other items. I cannot remember who was carrying them out. But I can still remember two men: a German officer and a Pole from our parish who spoke “their” language. The said officer was holding a monstrance and trying to break off its rays, but he could not succeed… By the cart there were several frightened children… The Pole who witnessed the plunder handed to us, furtively and whenever he could, items to be transported away… My parents were sad and cried. My dad said: “It is a doomsday! God willing, one day there will be a church here and these items will be of use!”… The church in Śpicimierz was pulled down, and the demolition materials were used to build a slaughterhouse in Uniejów’ (Hanna Klata, Było – nie minęło. Gawęda o Śpicimierzu in: Ład Boży, supplement to Niedziela no. 16/2000, p. 3).
In May 1945, Rev. Henryk Wieczorek arrived in Spycimierz. In 1945-46 a wooden temple was erected, which was placed under the former invocation. In 1948, a steeple was added. In 1977-83, the temple was thoroughly renovated. The side altars were brought from Skęczniew.
It should be remembered that the post-war wooden church was built in a difficult period, using materials available at that time, and it did not represent a high architectural value. Therefore, when Józef Gawłowski, who came from Spycimierz, made a donation for a funeral chapel to be built in the cemetery, an idea emerged to build a new brick church.
The present-day temple was built in 1986-1992 thanks to the efforts of the parish priest Wojciech Krzywański, as well as great involvement of the parishioners and Father Florian Pełka SJ coming from this parish. The new church was built according to the design by Jan Kopydłowski, M.Sc. Eng., from Poznań. It is made of brick, and covered with sheet copper. The polychrome decoration is made of true frescoes and sgraffiti as designed by Gizela Klaryska from Toruń and Jerzy Pasternak from Kraków. The frescoes refer to the temple’s invocation and the thousand-year-old presence of the Church in the history of the Polish nation.
The high altar reredos includes the elements of decor of the old church, e.g. the sculptures of God the Father (early 18th century) and the Christ Crucified (17th/18th century), and statues of Mary, St. John the Evangelist, St. Peter and St. Paul (18th century), as well as St. Stanislaus the Bishop (mid- 18th century) and St. Florian (17th/18th century). The church was consecrated by the then ordinary of the Diocese of Włocławek, bishop Bronisław Dembowski, on October 13th, 1992. In the church, there is a special papal gift, i.e. a marble bust of the Pope from Poland, which is the work of an Italian artist, Albino Sirsi, and the Blood Relic of St. John Paul II.