This beautiful temple is the oldest preserved church in Kłodzko. Its rich architecture, decorations, and interior furnishings are a testament to the fascinating history of the building.

The first references to the building date all the way back to 1194. Back then, it was most likely a modest wooden church. The cornerstone for the current structure was set in 1344 by the local Knights of the Order of Saint John. During that era, the Kłodzko region – a part of the Kingdom of Bohemia – fell under the newly founded Archdiocese of Prague. Proper construction of the church did not start until after the death of the main benefactor – Ernest of Pardubice, the first Archbishop of Prague. Before his death in 1364, he bequeathed considerable amounts of money for purposes of its construction. The construction was a very slow process because of fickle fate and the endless wars and fires continuing to descend upon the city. The walls of the triple nave basilica were up before the Hussite Wars. The work was resumed in 1462 and construction of the southern White tower began. The sign of the Maltese cross and the date of 1465 are still visible on the external stairs, but in reality construction was not completed until three years later. The work on the northern Black Tower began in 1487 and would continue until the 16th century. Consequentially, the architecture and interior of the Kłodzko temple were strongly influenced by late gothic and primarily by baroque style.

Numerous legends are associated with Ernest of Pardubice, the main benefactor of the church. Even though he was never canonised, the locals considered this man a saint. During his youth, when he was attending the school of the Order of Saint John in Kłodzko, he had allegedly witnessed a miracle, which would turn his life around. The young Ernest was the son of the Kłodzko castellan and was very proud of his heritage. During a mass, as he and his friends were singing the “Salve Regina” hymn, he saw the statue of the Virgin Mary standing on the main altar turn towards him. According to legend, the future archbishop experiences a spiritual transformation and started to praise the glory of the Virgin Mary.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Allegedly, there were also a few miracles after his death. According to his wish, the archbishop was buried in the royal crypt of the Assumption of Mary church he had founded. A sandstone sculpture of Ernest was erected on the floor above the crypt on top of a tomb made of black marble. However, the new tombstone would soon start to crack for unknown reasons. People believed that it was because of some supernatural power. Furthermore, some strange oil started to leak out of the tombstone on two occasions in 1468. It was believed to have some mysterious properties: it had a pleasant scent, was non-flammable, and did not rise in water. The people of Kłodzko declared it to have miraculous properties. There was enough of it for the locals to collect into vessels with spoons. This was a very hard time for Catholics in Kłodzko because all masses, funerals, or sermons were prohibited. The city was under the curse cast by the pope upon King George of Poděbrady, who was a Hussite and the owner of Kłodzko County. The locals saw the wonderful oil as proof that the archbishop would never forget about Kłodzko or its residents, even after his death.

In 1562, the temple was taken over by Protestants. During this time, the catholic masses conducted by the Order of Saint John in Kłodzo were held only in Saint James’ Chapel and the northern nave of the church. In late 16th century, the Jesuits would arrive in Kłodzko to launch an intensive recatholisation campaign. In 1624, thanks to the support of Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg, they bought back the church and the commandery from the Order of Saint John – which was quickly losing influence in the city – and immediately started extensive campaigns. These campaigns were not limited to only spirituality as they also prepared an extensive architectural programme. Besides the work on the parish church, they would focus on the convent school and college being built at the church. Their plan had two stages. The initial baroque reconstruction saw erection of three chapels and a vestry in the southern nave, as well as the Chapel of the Dead, which is directly adjacent to the northern nave. Its family crypt holds the remains of its founder, the Count Montani of Ołdrzychowice. The Jesuits also recruited stuccoists from northern Italy to modernise the interior during the years 1660-1670.

The second stage was carried out in the first half of the 18th century, when the still-surviving main elements of the interior were created: the pulpit, the altars, the organ gallery, and the confessionals. This period would produce exquisite sculptures, many of which can still be admired in the parish church. The most prominent artist working for the Jesuits of Kłodzko was Michael Klahr the Elder. Between 1717 and 1725, he created some of the sculptures, the pulpit, the confessionals, and the ornaments and figures decorating the organ gallery. The artist himself, a native of the Kłodzko region, had learned his art from Austrian sculptor Karl Sebastian Flacker. Klahr’s descendants went on to keep his traditions alive until early 19th century. After the Jesuit order was dissolved in 1776, the Assumption of Mary church was taken over by the Royal Prussian School Board. During the military and administrative Prussian rule, the monuments of sacral architecture were pretty much forgotten for quite a while. In 1814, when the Order was restored, the temple was returned to the Jesuits, who remain in charge of it to this day. On the 500th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Ernest, the disintegrating tombstone was moved from the main nave to the northern one. The church underwent renovation a little earlier, during the years 1836-1841.