History of Wang Church
by Edwin Pech
Wang Church was built at the turn of 12th century in Vang which accounts for its present name. Vang was a settlement at Lake Vang in southern Norway.
Lake Wang (Vangsmjosi in Norway) set 466 m above sea level surrounded by high mountains where Mount Grindafjellet (1724 m above sea level), their most famous peak used to be a dwelling place for Tindull Grindo, a troll, in the "olden days".
A circle marks a former site of the Wang church.
photo: © Janusz Moniatowicz
About a thousand similar wooden (stave) churches were built there then, yet till the present day only thirty one such churches survived in Norway, and this one in Karpacz Górny. Our Twin Parish in Hahnenklee, Germany, has also a wooden church built in 1908 according to the Norwegian designs.
In the nineteenth century Wang Church proved too small and in need of costly renovation, and so a decision to sell it was made. The money was needed to pay back a loan taken for the construction of a new one.
Thanks to the efforts of a Dresden-based Norwegian painter, Professor John Christian Dahl, this great architectural experience of the Vikings was bought for the sum of 427 marks by the then king, Frederick William IV. A royal architect completed the working plan of the church building, and the edifice was taken to pieces so as to be shipped, in boxes, to Szczecin in 1841 and from there - to the Royal Museum in Berlin. The King, however, had abandoned the idea of having it reerected on the Peacock Island near Berlin and started seeking another site for the church to render its religious services.
Owing to the involvement of Countess Frederica von Reden of Bukowiec, in the spring of 1842 the church was moved to the Karkonosze Mountains so that it could be of use to the Lutherans living in Karpacz and its surroundings. The church therefore journeyed on barges along the river Odra to be later hauled by nine horse wagons.
The building site for the church was presented by Count Christian Leopold von Schaffgotsch of Cieplice. It is a slope of Czarna Góra (885 metres above sea level), midway between lower Karpacz and Mount Śnieżka.
To provide a few hundred square metres of a building plot necessary for the church, the rectory, the school and the cemetery the rocks were blown up and a six-metre-high retaining wall was constructed.
On August 2, 1842 King Frederick William IV himself laid a cornerstone for the church, and two years later on July 28, 1844 the solemn opening and the consecration of the church took place in the presence of the King, his Consort, Frederick- the Prince of Holland and other distinguished guests.
For the first time the bells were heard ringing from the bell tower of this church whose location is the highest among the Lower Silesian churches. The bells' ringing made it known that from then onwards the church would provide the same service as it had in Norway.
Wang Church followed the best examples of the Scandinavian sacral architecture and is now a unique work of the old Nordic art. Built in the way the Viking longships were, that is without a single nail, it features wooden bolts and dovetails. The church was built from the Norwegian pine rich in resin which reveals unusual endurance.
THE RUNES IN WANG CHURCH
Runes were the letters of the syllabic alphabet used at the beginning of our era by the peoples of north and north-west Europe. The letters were mainly carved in stone, metal, bone and wood. They had probably been created beyond the Roman culture. They followed the Latin and Greek alphabets. Among the Scandinavian people they survived as late as the 19th century as the peasant and ornamental script. The word "rune", i. e. a secret, stood for a secret script. In Norway there are about 1,600 rune inscriptions. The runic inscription on the portal of the Wang church had various translations, e. g. "Eindridi badly cut St. Olafs son's little finger." Most probably the inscription reads: "Eindridi carved (the portal), a thin finger, Olaf the Evil's son." It is then an artist's signature. The name of the carver who made the portal was Eindridi; he was called "thin-fingered" ("of artistic fingers"?) and was the son of some Olaf the Evil.
photo: © Janusz Moniatowicz
The outer door frames, which you have just passed through, draw one's attention to their half-columns decorated with a tangle of dragons and plants. On their capitals mounted are the stylized lions in their symbolic roles of the beasts which keep guard at the gates.
It is most incredible that in those days with such scarce tools available like the ones made from flint, horn or fishbone people were able to so masterly carve the beasts' heads, their legs and furs. Quite unlike other ornaments these are facing outwards.
The age of the southern doorway on the right is revealed by the characteristic lunette which caps it and whose clover shape points to the twelfth century.
In the top corners of both doorways are the carved winged dragons right in the act of tearing apart the horizontally placed figure eight. Such an arrangement may symbolise the eternal and everlasting combat between good and evil.
Across from here, you can see the southern doorway which was carved by Eindridi in the first half of the twelfth century as the runic inscription, placed on the edge of the door frame reveals: "Eindridi carved me to the glory of St Olaf."
The half-columns, which make decorative door frames, depict the Viking warriors' faces, with their forked tongues sticking out. Such tongues represented the passing of knowledge and wisdom onto the following generations. The upper parts of the columns from the twelfth century, carved in the Byzantine style, are also true works of art. The carved figures of animals, plants and mascarons decorate these capitals.
The four columns placed in the middle of the main nave and the ones on its both sides may have been the masts of the Viking long boats. The remaining columns, which are in front of the altar and depict David's victory over Goliath, and the Prophet Daniel in the lions' pit were reconstructed by a remarkable sculptor - Jakub of Janowice. Sill another of his works is the cross made in 1844 from a single oak trunk and the figure of Christ, made from linden wood in 1846.
On both sides of the altar, made in 1980 by Ryszard Zając, standing are the two mounted candelabra. One shows a swan as a symbol of faithfulness, the other - a heart as a symbol of love. The candles in them are lit only during wedding ceremonies. Wang Church is well known as a church of successful marriages.
The font, the Lower Silesian baroque, made around 1740, comes from a dismantled church in Dziećmorowice, near Wałbrzych. The pulpit was made from the wood brought from Norway. The two boards hanging on the walls are used for displaying the numbers of hymns sung during services, and they date back to the year 1904. The church is surrounded with the cloisters which protect it against cold. In the days of old, people used to leave their weapons and fishing nets there. In medieval times they would do penance in there. The sunlight brightens the church interior through 174 little crown-glass windows. On leaving the church we can see some highly characteristic roof ornaments. The roof tops are decorated with pinnacles, i.e., the projections in the shape of gaping dragon mouths which resemble the ornaments characteristic of the Vikings' longships. Thus the Karkonosze Wang Church is an example of how the pagan elements penetrated into Scandinavian Christianity.
A 24-metre-high tower was built of the Silesian granite to shield the little church from sharp gusts of wind blowing off the Śnieżka direction.
In 1856, on the western slope, king Frederick William IV put up a monument with an epitaph in honour of Countess von Reden and with her likeness in a medallion. In the churchyard also are the rectory buildings for the use of the local Lutheran Parish. In the Chapel of Christian Mission you will find the Holy Bible, the Bible for children, Christian publications, Wang Church photographic albums, view cards and souvenirs connected with the place. Next to the book shop is a sculpture, made by Ryszard Zając in 1994, which shows Lazarus being raised from the dead.
Additional Information: book titled: "Wang" by Janusz Moniatowicz, Edwin Pech
- ISBN 83-901277-0-9 (Polish)
- ISBN 83-901277-1-7 (German)
- ISBN 83-901277-2-5 (English)