Unknown Wrocław: church in shadow of cathedral

One of the smallest churches located on Ostrów Tumski. The Church of St Giles is the oldest church functioning in Wrocław.

The Church of St. Giles (Kościół św. Idziego) is easy to overlook – it is located on the northern side of the big cathedral building, thus being in its shadow both literally and metaphorically. This small church was built in the first half of the 13th century upon the order of Victor – the dean of the Wrocław cathedral chapter house. The tradition and elements such as stone profiles of the church pedestal allow us to conclude that the building was erected in place of another church - an even older one.

When we look towards the presbytery after entering the church, we can really be surprised. The altar cannot be seen, because it is hidden behind a pillar supporting the ceiling. The floor contains also an entrance to the crypt. The church was probably intended to be the tomb-chapel of Jarosław, Duke of Opole and Bishop of Wrocław (1198-1201). 

When we go past the column covering the presbytery, we can see the modern bas-relief of the Blessed John Paul II and the restored 18th-century figures of Christ and the Holy Mother surrounded by images of the four Evangelists. Outside the presbytery there is also the figure of Moses and the scene of the Flagellation.

Masses for kindergarten-age children and craftsmen

On weekdays the interior of the Church of St. Giles can be watched only through the grate, but the temple is open on Sundays before noon, when masses for kindergarten-age children are celebrated. It is also the place of prayer of Wrocław craftsmen, which is reflected by emblems of particular guilds placed in the back part of the church. Apart from that, relics of Saint Zygmunt Gorazdowski, called the “Lvov apostle of mercy”, are stored there. On the church wall, we can also see a memorial plaque of pioneers of the Wrocław City. After World War II, only 20 per cent of the building (and 70 per cent of the cathedral) was destroyed, so the Poles who arrived in Breslau gathered for prayers here. At that time, the church was in the custody of the Franciscan friars, who had settled here in 1888.

When entering the Church of St Giles in Wrocław, we can feel the atmosphere of a small rural parish church, even though it is located in the heart of the city. For a moment, it is worth experiencing this peace and the climate of a Roman temple that, in spite of being of the oldest church of Wrocław, is yet to be discovered by many Wrocław inhabitants.