After the 1147 crusade against the Polabian Slavs, Szczecin became a place of German colonisation. St Jacob’s Church, intended for German colonists, was consecrated in 1187. It was founded by Beringer, a Bramberg pilgrim, and given to the custody of the Benedictine brothers from the St Michael Monastery in Bramberg.
The construction of the brick church continued for dozens of years, starting in the middle of the 13th Century from a three-aisle basilica with two spires and a basilica-like presbytery, surrounded with a by-pass and a circle of chapels. The altars were founded by the Szczecin guilds and companies.
The presbytery reconstruction started in 1370. The basilica frame was changed into the hall frame with a circle of chapels between the interior buttresses.
At the outset of the 15th Century Henry Brunsberg built additional chapels on the southern aisle, decorating them with impressive ornaments made of tiled moulders.
In 1456 the southern spire collapsed during a hurricane, destroying the basilica corpus. During reconstruction, additional chapels were erected in the northern section, together with only one spire in the western part, as a result of which the corpus was changed from the basilica frame into a hall church frame. The reconstruction work was completed in 1503.
In the last 25 years of the 17th Century, the interior section was reconstructed in the Baroque style. The St Jacob bell, constructed by Wawrzyniec Köckeritz, the Szczecin bell-founder, was placed in the church tower. The altar was created by sculptor Erhard Löffler, and the painting, entitled “Taken down the cross”, was made by Lengereich. The organ front was sculptured by the Amsterdam master Van der Linden. While assembling the organs with a large scale of sounds, advice was provided by master Buxtehude from Lübeck. The capacity of this instrument was wonderfully utilised by organist and composer Karl Loewe, residing in Szczecin in 1820-1866.
The church was badly damaged during the 16 August 1944 shelling. Its reconstruction did not start until 1972 and has continued until today. The official consecration of the cathedral was performed on 31 May 1982 by Kazimierz Majdański, the Szczecin-Kamieniec Bishop. The status of Cathedral Basilica was given by Pope John Paul II on 23 May 1983, and the status of Metropolitan Basilica on 25 March 1992.
Considering the ongoing additions to the rich furnishings of the church, we suggest that you buy a current version of the guidebook while visiting this astonishing place.
The tower is an element of the St. James Metropolitan Basilica Cathedral. An observation deck is available for tourist all year long. The entrance to the terrace is only via a lift.