While the archaeological work in the New Market Square [Nowy Rynek] area began only two weeks ago, the survey conductors already speak of a sensation. They were expecting to uncover relics of a 14th-century church under the cobblestones, but they have actually found remains of a church almost a century older, dating back to the period when Szczecin was granted municipal charter.
Until recently it was still assumed that the church had originally been made of wood and then demolished, and that the work carried out almost 100 years later had led to the creation of a magnificent brick building, serving the burghers until a great fire in the early 19th century.
What exactly has been discovered in Podzamcze?
“Archaeologists have dug into the foundations of a church dating back to the 13th century”, says Michał Dębowski, Szczecin’s Art Restorer. “In 1243, Szczecin’s Duke Barnim the First granted the patronage of St Nicolas church and the parish to the Cistercian nuns from the nearby Blessed Virgin Mary monastery. Immediately after the foundation, work began to erect the building, the foundations of which have survived to the present day”.
Hidden beneath the ground was a wall section with ribs in the form of thin columns decorating the pillar that used to support the vault. They were set on bases made of glazed bricks and decorated with characteristic leaf motifs referred to as croquets.
“The form of this architectural detail”, as Michal Dębowski explains, “indicates quite conclusively that it was made around the middle of the 13th century at the latest”.
The current survey will provide historians with material that may change the way they think about the early development of Szczecin and the architecture of that time. The relics in question are extremely valuable, which is why they will now be inventoried and secured, but in the future, once the New Market Square is transformed into a regular square, they will be put on display so that not only scientists but also residents and tourists could have access to them.
The archaeological work will continue until mid-October; the results, together with the study, will be publicised by the end of 2022.