• September 29, 2020

How The Church Beat Communism in Poland – coronavirus case study

Polish churches blend unwavering faith with wise politics to graciously establish themselves in a Communist State that hate churches.

The rise of the church in Poland validates the importance of the church in a society. Socially, people need a place to marry and to baptise their children, a psycho-spiritual yearning communism could not feed. Only these two needfuls, among other numerous values of the church in Poland triggered the desires of Polish politicians to romance the church.

Other than rising faithfully to eke out a space in a strong communist society, church buildings in Poland are the most distinctive Polish contribution to the architectural heritage of the 20th Century.

The architect who built them use them to evoke a notion of pride – as many of these churches are the best pieces of architecture in their respective areas.

As God is an expert at converting adversities to advantage, He cornered the Polish government to issue previously unavailable building permits to the Catholic Church. The government needed to alleviate the revolutionary mood after the general walkouts organised by the labour union Solidarity in 1980 – the church came handy as answered prayers, to the Communist State and the Church.

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Also, the construction of these handsome churches is more extraordinary than their design. State-controlled building equipment was not available, nor was there access to building materials. Relentlessly, the church employed the Heath Robinson style, they borrowed, scavenged and invented.

Heath Robinson Style means using ingenuity and whatever available to creatively invent something.

The hurdle didn’t end there. The church needed labourers. And graciously, those who opposed the regime rallied around the Church, and were inspired to support the construction of new places of worship. That’s another divine favour disguised to the undiscerning as Solidarity, helped again.

Additionally, they won free Saturdays – reducing the working week from six to five days – which allowed labourers spare time to work on their local church.

They used hand-built methods – stone and brick in sharp contrast to the concrete, prefabricated Modernism elsewhere on Polish building sites. They said given the lack of access to machinery, industry and modern-day materials, this move was both ideological and pragmatic.

To rally volunteers, priests used the church pulpit on a weekly basis. Architect Marian Tunikowski recounts the unorthodox story of how his Church of Our Lady Queen of Poland in Świdnica got built.

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“Around 100 to 150 people arrived at the construction site, not knowing what they would do that day. Most of them had no practical experience in construction work.”

As it was impossible to get hold of a crane, “this church emerged from a forest of timber scaffolding – just like in the Middle Ages,” he adds.

When grace meets determination – seven billion devils are not enough to stop you.

Stanisław Niemczyk – architect of five churches, including Church of the Holy Spirit in Tychy – had a similar experience when industrial cement mixers were unavailable.

In the past, each household in Poland had a concrete mixer fashioned out of a bicycle wheel and a barrel, and these were put to use. “From dawn till dusk, we carried concrete in buckets until we managed to finish the frames,” he says in the book – Day-VII Architecture, that catalogues these churches.

The church has produced lots of music stars, actors and business-men but architects and designers are not popular amongst the careers the church boosted, like it happened in Poland.

Better paid than government work, church design acted as a springboard into a professional career in the 1990s, after the collapse of communism in 1989.

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The church rose powerfully in Poland in the 1980s and Communism collapsed in 1989 – hand of God?

“The vast majority of architectural offices along with developers and small construction companies who dominated the market in the 1990s had their roots in church construction.

This was the case for Tunikowski, who set up his own practice. Likewise, Jarząbek, who went on to design the Solpol department store in Wrocław, seen as an icon of Polish postmodern architecture. “But the number one (project) in my portfolio is our church,” Jarząbek says.

In towns and villages across Poland, 3,000 churches were built between 1945 and 1989.

This GRACIOUS boom happened despite the fact that religion went against the ideology of the ruling Communist party.

Church was neither legal nor prohibited.

But many of the churches’ eye-popping edifices in Poland look as if they’ve arrived from outer space. They were a Godsend.

You can’t beat the church. Christ is coming for his unblemished church. Not even coronavirus can stop culmination and consummation of all things through Christ and for the church. FEAR NOT. ONLY BELIEVE!

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Femi Oshin

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