W. I. Juretzko
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This page was established 11-15-2000



The Church That My Forefathers Built

By Werner I. Juretzko

Upper Silesia Anno 2000

As the sexton unlocked the gate, the splendor of the church’s baroque interior presented itself in front of our eyes. My thoughts went back to the Middle Ages, back to the forefathers from my mother’s side of my family and back to the people who lived in this part of the world.

    The early 1600’s were relatively peaceful times for the people of Upper Silesia. The inhabitants of the hamlet known as Ruptau, which is located between the wooded foothills of Beskiden in the present-day southern section of Upper Silesia, were relatively unaffected by the rage of war and plunder that surrounded Upper Silesia. The Thirty Year War changed all that.

In 1618, outraged citizens threw a low level government official out of the window of the Hradschin Castle in Prague because he refused to issue a permit to build a church. This event was named in history as ”Der Fenstersturz von Prag” (Prague’s fall from the window)”. This event marked the beginning of the Thirty Year War which pitted Catholics against Protestants. The nations of Europe became embroiled in a rage of a religious madness. For the next 30 years, many cities in Europe were reduced to rubble and ashes. It was not until 1648 that the peace treaty of Osnabrueck brought Catholics and Protestants to their senses.

While the ravages of the Thirty Year War surrounded them , the people of Ruptau began harvesting timber to erect build a church. They were a simple people – peasants, shepherds and farmers who constantly struggled to make a living from the rocky farmland but they all banded together to demonstrate to God their reverence. The church was built in baroque architecture and was dedicated to Saint Bartolomeus.

The church was built entirely from wood with the only exception being the stone baptismal font next to the altar.

Christine on a visit from the States is pictured standing next to the baptismal fond

View of the Bartolomeus church

Historical plaque at the church entrance

It is historically documented that the church was erected on the same foundation as the previous one which had been dedicated to Saint Peter in 1447, which is before the birth of Christopher Columbus. History is not clear as to what happened to destroy the original church, but legend has it, as told to my mother by her grandmother, that an army of murderous bandits with long sabers descended upon Ruptau and burned everything to the ground.

My mother lost her mother at the age of three and had been raised by her grandmother, who is my great grandmother. The grave site of my grandmother is only forty steps from the original foundation of the church that was originally built in 1447. An entry in the church book reads, ”bitten by a evil dog, Marianne Swoboda dies in the year of our Lord 1891. God grant her eternal peace.”

Another entry in the church book which reports a happier time reads, ”…..the Earl Von Reitzenstein’s coachman, Johann Swoboda, takes the home dweller’s daughter Marianne Retzlik to his wedded wife in the year of our Lord 1879

The church in Ruptau survived the Thirty Year War and over the next 300 years, the church also escaped the ravages of the world wars of the 20th century. In 1971, the church was completely dismantled and carefully transported approximately 15 kilometers to the nearby village of Kaczyce, which is located near the Czech border, and meticulously reassembled. This church and several others have been declared historical landmarks by the Republic of Poland. There is a historical myth that should be corrected. In the present day description of the baroque wooden churches of Poland , this church is listed as the Church of Kaczyce. The proper name of the church is the Church of Ruptau which now stands in the village of Kaczyce.

Whenever I visit my homeland, as I visit the cemetery where my grandmother is buried, and when I go into the church and look at the altar and the baptismal font with the blessed water , it feels as if my ancestors are looking at me and saying, ” Welcome my children to the soil were your ancestors once lived.”

The gravesite from Marianne Retzlik dates back to 1891. Wildflowers now embrace this site. Three generations

meet in prayer: Dorothea,Theresa, Rafael, Werner and Christine.

Local artist Kazimiera Drewniok sketched wooden churches in Silesia
which are published in
"Kosciolki drewiane na Slasku".
She is a resident of Rybnik in Upper Silesia


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