About the project

General information

On 9 September 2016, Pelplin was the venue of a formal meeting of the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Jarosław Sellin, and the Diocesan Bishop, Ryszard Kasyna. During the meeting, the Ministry and the Diocese of Pelplin signed an agreement for co-financing of the project entitled: “Cathedral Basilica in Pelplin – renovation and opening of a new exhibition area”.

The project No. POIS.08.01.00-00-0048/16-00 is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under Measure 8.1 of Priority axis VIII Protection of cultural heritage and development of cultural resources of the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment 2014-2020.

Value of the project: PLN 21,000,689.82 (eligible expenditure: PLN 20,986,589.82). Co-financing from the European Regional Development Fund: PLN 17,838,601.34

The project is located in Pelplin (Tczew County, Pomeranian Province) and covers the Cathedral Basilica of  the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

More information on the Institution providing co-financing and the Programme can be found on the websites of :


Ministry of Culture and National Heritag

Intermediate Body of the Infrastructure and Environment Programme

 

Genesis of the project

The Basilica in Peplin, which is the most important part of the post-Cistercian-cathedral complex, is a priceless sacral monument. The building is one of the largest brick temples of the Gothic in Poland, and at the same time is one of the finest realisations of the ideals established by Cistercian architecture. Successive builders consistently tried to maintain harmony of lines and proportions, creating a monumental, but at the same time modest and simplified facility.

The whole Basilica is saturated with beauty of this harmony that is especially prominent in one of the most beautiful sacred spaces in Poland, which is the northern arm of the transept (Chapel of the Holy Sacrament), crowned with a magnificent crystal vault.

However, the Basilica is not only a heritage of Cistercian architecture. For centuries, the Monastery had enriched it with valuable works of art – the temple contains, among others,
a beautiful Mannerist Main Altar, the largest altar in Poland and one of the largest in Europe, the interiors decorated with Gothic and Renaissance stalls, as well as Baroque altars with unique paintings of great masters: Herman Han, Bartłomiej Strobel and Andrzej Stech.

The Basilica, as one of the most outstanding achievements of Gothic architecture, hiding the wealth of works of many centuries of sacred art, should be therefore an attractive point on the tourist map of Pomerania, attracting not only pilgrims but also all those interested in the cultural heritage of the region and country, and even Europe (especially because of the European Route of Brick Gothic). Unfortunately, the situation is completely inadequate to the rank of this place – the cathedral is visited only by more than ten thousand visitors
a year, and this number is constantly decreasing – in 2015 it was only 13 000 people.

In order to remedy this state of affairs, authorities created the project “Cathedral Basilica in Pelplin – renovation and opening of a new exhibition area”, co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage from the European Regional Development Fund. Its primary objective is to protect and develop the cultural heritage of the Basilica by fully exploiting its potential that is unique in Poland and Europe. The large-scale project is focused on two basic areas – fundamental renovation of the church (renovation of external walls with modernisation of the drainage system and land development, renovation of the roof, its rafter framing and the tower, finally modernisation of the electrical installation, enabling the use of a new and better lightning system) and improving the tourist offer (creation of new exhibition areas in the attic and making the previously unexposed technical monuments accessible to visitors, modernisation of different forms of sightseeing, as well as renovation of other mobile monuments).

Project objectives

Project objectives and its consistency with the relevant priority axes of the operational programme or programmes, and its expected contribution to achieving the specific objectives and results of those priority axes and to the socio-economic development of the area covered by the operational programme concerned.

The primary objective of the project is to protect and develop the cultural heritage of the Cathedral Basilica in Pelplin. The achievement of this objective will be supported by four partial objectives

  1. Making the previously unexposed technical monuments accessible to visitors
  2. Increasing access to cultural resources (new target groups - children, business and conference tourists)
  3. Creation and promotion of a tourist product
  4. Improvement of conditions for displaying and promoting key elements of cultural heritage in the Basilica

Protection of cultural heritage – renovation of the Basilica and the works of art

The biggest challenge was undoubtedly the building’s technical condition. One of the key problems was high moisture level in external walls and a clogged rainwater system. This resulted in high humidity in the Basilica, which had a negative impact on the monuments and significantly accelerated their destruction. The fence was also renovated at the time of drying of moist walls.

The second most urgent problem was the condition of the cathedral roofing. The rafter framing destroyed by insects was also renovated. The roof gaps were removed and the corroded steel reinforcements of the ceiling beams were repaired. The tower, whose steel structure had also been corroded, its moulded and rotted wooden elements, and finally the poorly maintained entrance to the top of the tower were repaired. After the completion of these major construction works, builders carried out further finishing works, adapting the huge attic to an exhibition area, which will present technical monuments that were previously inaccessible to the public.

The next stage of the works includes modernisation of the outdated electrical installation. Its poor technical condition makes it impossible to install a new lighting system that could properly expose valuable monuments located in the church. The basilica, as a very large facility, is a major challenge in this respect. The new system will not only illuminate the works of sacred art, but will also bring out and emphasize architectural values of the building's exterior and interior elements.

Repairs will be completed with the installation of modern fire-fighting and anti-breaking systems.

Parallel to the repair works, actions were taken to renovate mobile monuments within the Basilica. Although conservation works (carried out mainly on the Baroque altars and Gothic stalls) have been going on for many years, the scale of needs is still very large. Therefore, in addition to the renovation of the building, the project also provides for the restoration of a number of works, thus supporting the activities of the Diocese and the Provincial Conservator.

The most important work renovated as part of the project, is the monumental front of the Baroque side organs in the southern transept-arm. The organ front, one of the most beautiful in northern Europe, was already in a poor condition – there were numerous structural damages, the wood was degraded, soft to the touch and decaying. Gold and silver plating, as well as polychromies were damaged, chipped and with numerous defects.

The next works of art, which are undergoing conservation work, are six Rococo (18th century) and Neo-Rococo (19th century) confessionals, which due to structural damage became dangerously unstable and were on the verge of collapse. The works are scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of next year (2020).

The renovation of two Baroque side altars is scheduled to be completed at the same time: the altars of St. Adalbert and St. John of Nepomuk. The works of famous Czech stucco decorators from Prague from the middle of the 18th century are a pair of almost identical altars, made mainly of stucco and distinguished by the richness of their sculptural decoration. Both were heavily soiled, with a cracked and disintegrated surface, and almost entirely abraded gold on the bases and capitals of the columns.

The last monuments restored as part of the project are stained-glass windows located under the vault of the main nave and the chancel. The windows dating back to the end of the 19th century were already on the verge of collapse. The works are scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2021.

Development of cultural heritage – expansion and modernisation of the tourist offer

The project objective – in addition to the preservation of the cultural heritage through general renovation and conservation works – is also to develop the heritage. This is to be achieved through, above all, making the monuments more accessible to the public by creating a new exhibition area in the attic of the Basilica. Its huge area (1,250 m2) increased the previously available space by more than a half (which until now was almost 2,470 m2). Unique technical monuments, which were previously inaccessible to visitors, are presented in the attic.

Speaking of the monuments, we have to mention a giant tread-wheel from the 17th century, six cranes (including at least one from the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries) and turnstiles, bender, or equipment for material processing. The Basilica was constructed with innovative devices used to, for example, pull building materials and wooden elements of the rafter framing. The unique collection is the oldest set of technical devices in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe.

The listed technical monuments have not been restored so far. The most interesting device – tread-wheel – was on the verge of collapse (the wooden structure of the crane wheel was already heavily tilted). Some of the devices were heavily corroded. Renovation of devices was aimed at increasing the attractiveness of the Basilica as a tourist facility and attracting new groups of customers.

Modernisation of the tourist offer, which used to be very modest and standard – covering only the possibility of visiting the interior of the Basilica, alone or with a guide – is also supposed to increase the number of visitors. A number of tourists' needs were not met. The basic shortcomings included such fundamental problems as disturbing the peace of the faithful by tour guides, lack of modern technologies supporting individual tours around the cathedral, lack of offer for children or visually and hearing impaired persons, and lack of
a souvenir shop. Meanwhile, visitors are becoming increasingly demanding, and acquiring them for the Pelplin temple and the city itself requires a more enriched offer.

In order to solve these problems, the project intended the creation of a new cultural and educational offer. Four thematic paths will be introduced, a tour guide system will be purchased, and audio-guides will be made available to the visitors for individual tours.

A number of facilities for the disabled have also been introduced and a souvenir shop offering more than just devotional items has been opened. These activities will attract new groups of visitors that will spend more time in the Basilica.

An important factor in making the offer more attractive for the visitors is the fact that the project concerned is the main, but not the only undertaking prepared by the Diocese of Pelplin in the area of the post-Cistercian-cathedral complex. A few undertakings planned nearby the Basilica include: creation of the Kociewian Cultural Centre or revitalisation of the palace and park complex. The complex covers such tourist attractions as: Diocesan Museum with the only Polish copy of the Gutenberg Bible (1453-1455), Diocesan Archives in Pelplin and Library of the Higher Seminary that gathers masterpieces of painting and sculptures of Central Europe created in Pomerania.

As a result of the above activities, the Basilica opens up to new groups of recipients from all over the country (e.g. children, business tourists, people interested in unique technical monuments, e.g. student groups from technical universities), and the range of its impact will significantly increase. Therefore, one can expect a significant increase in the number of visitors (from 13 thousand people to about 27 thousand people a year), the number of people taking part in other important local events (Museum Nights in the former Cistercian Abbey, Festival of honey, herbs and undergrowth, Cistercian Fair, Review of early music ensembles), and consequently the time spent by the visitors in Pelplin.

This fact should have important consequences for the whole local community, and increased tourism should positively translate into the economy of Pelplin. This may result in the creation of new jobs among local companies focused on tourism (gastronomy, shops, small services) in the city with a relatively high level of unemployment.

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