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By Pogranicze Media
Published: 05.03.2020

Blizne - Church of All Saints.

   The wooden Gothic church of All Saints in Blizne was built in the mid-1400s. The church along with the presbytery complex from the 18th -19th centuries is one of the oldest facilities of wooden religious architecture in Poland. The interior of the church consists of a vestibule, square nave and chancel. The chancel is adorned with ornamental and figurative polychromes from 1550, 1649 and 1700. Other church features include a late Renaissance ambo from 1604, high altar from 1700, two late Baroque side altars from the 17th century and a baptismal font from the first half of the 18th century. The church lies on the Wooden Architecture Route of the Podkarpackie Region.
(Trail no. 1 - Krosno - Brzozów area).

A notable feature inside the church in Blizne is the figure of Our Lady Full of Grace, in the side altar. Miraculously saved, the statue of Madonna is extremely valuable; sculpted ca. 1515, it was inspired by a drawing by Albrecht Dűrer and is credited to the school of Veit Stoss.

   All Saints’ Church in Blizne, another UNESCO site in Podkarpackie, is slightly smaller and only a little younger than the building in Haczów, as it is dated to the second half of the 1400s. It is, however, equally valuable and delightful. Looking at the refined and elegant silhouette of the church, one hardly expects the bright and colourful ornaments inside. Yet, in fact, the trademark features of the church in Blizne include its wall paintings from the 16th, 17th and early 18th century. These polychromes are like the Paupers' Bible taking an unusually elaborate form. A particularly interesting detail can be noticed in the painting which depicts martyrdom of the saints. In this representation the persecutors are shown with exotic facial features, an unquestionable reference to Tartar invasions once plaguing the areas of Blizne.
   An unusual legend is connected with one of such events. In 1624, when Tartar army appeared in Blizne, residents of the village looked for shelter in the church. The Tartars were defeated, but they managed to take 60 people into captivity. Yet, it turned out that the villagers had a very special protector, Archangel Michael who set the prisoners free and drove away the invaders. All this, allegedly, happened on a hill well visible from the church grounds, on the other side of the road where today we can see the shrine of St. Michael.
   Just like any legend, this one also combines historical facts with folk tales. Yet, it is true that in addition to its religious function, the church in Blizne also provided protection. The building was surrounded with a wall, and people living in Blizne sought refuge there in case of danger.

Haczów - church from the 15th century.

   The church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael is the largest log church in Europe and the oldest landmark of this type in Poland. The church was built in the first half of the 15th century in a Gothic style. In 1624, during a Tatar invasion, the church was destroyed. During reconstruction works the tower was built and the arcades were added. The interior of the church features a monumental wall painting from 1494 (probably the oldest polychrome of this kind in Europe) and painted embellishments from 1864. The most precious here is the figure of Pieta, from ca. 1400 presenting Our Lady of Sorrows cradling the dead body of Jesus. Other valuable furnishings include the Baroque high altar from the end of the 17th century, utensils from the 17th-18th century and Gothic sculptures from the 1400s.

   Is a log structure; its main body is made of logs interlocked at the corners. As a result the entire edifice was built with no use of nails. The church in Haczów is one of the oldest and largest buildings of this type in the world. In fact, all the UNESCO heritage sites in Podkarpackie are log churches.
   Built in the first half of the 1400s, the church in Haczów served the local people for centuries. For them it was of extraordinary importance and one of the reasons was the Gothic Pietà (today over 600 years old!) which was brought to them by the water of the Wisłok river.
   The wooden church in Haczów amazes as much with its dimensions and age as with its remarkable interiors. It stands out for its painted embellishments, varying in age, featuring elaborate iconographic contents and fine artistry - says Anna Fortuna Marek, historian of art, Head of the Rzeszów branch of the National Heritage Board. She adds that it was these paintings that explained the Bible to our ancestors, who could not read. Today over five hundred years later they continue fascinating with their artistry, the presentation and the colourful tale.
   Until recently believed to be the oldest in Poland, the church in Haczów bears witness to history spanning more than half a millennium. The tangible evidence of this includes carved inscriptions on the outer walls of the building, such as the one from 1771 informing about a flood; the marking shows the level to which the water reached.
   The church experienced various fortunes. The worst times include the events of the 1970s when the communist authorities were planning to transform the building into a museum of agricultural machines. Fortunately, the outrageous idea fell through and there is a big chance that the church in Haczów will continue to be a witness of history for future generations as well.


   Why is it so? - Presumably built towards the end of the 1500s, this is one of the oldest wooden churches of Eastern Christianity which have been preserved in Poland - explains Anna Fortuna-Marek. The tserkov in Radruż stands out for its age, shape and form. It has a three-part structure, with a separate section for women, the nave in which men used to prey, and the chancel designed for liturgical service. Notably, each of these sections is covered with a tent-shaped roof.
   The church in Radruż, however, shares some characteristics with the other UNESCO sites in Podkarpackie. It also used to provide shelter to villagers during invasions, and was even referred to as “Peasants’ Stronghold”. Therefore, in its architecture it is possible to identify defensive elements, particularly visible in the belfry standing nearby.

   During the turbulent times of Tartar invasions, Radruż was a stage of an incredible story. Its main heroine was a beautiful woman, taken into Tartar captivity. Indeed, she became a sultaness, yet after 27 years, to everyone’s astonishment, she returned to her homeland. Indeed, even her husband was so certain of her death, that he had remarried in the meantime. Interestingly, the story of the captive woman from Radruż has been confirmed by historians. The woman was Maria Dubniewiczowa, wife of the alderman of Radruż. In all fairness we must add that the alderman himself, Wasyl Dubniewicz, was so devastated by the fact that he had two wives, that he asked to be interred under the threshold of the tserkov, for eternal penance, so that those entering the church would for ever trample on his grave. Allegedly, one of the two crosses next to the side entrance marks the grave.