Many believers who came to Sunday’s mass wiped away a tear at the sight of the charred remains of what was once the best preserved wooden church in the country. For many of the locals it was the place where they had made their wedding vows or had their children baptised for several generations. On Wednesday night, last week, the church was ravaged in a blaze that the police believe was intentionally set by three youths. The local priest Kazimierz Plachta recalls the fatal night when it happened.
“The police rang me at midnight to say there was a problem. All the fire sensors in the church were going off which had never happened before. Two minutes later it was confirmed that the church was ablaze.”
Given its wooden construction the church was ravaged within minutes and the few bystanders who gathered had no chance of doing anything other than watching the flames swallow it up. The response of the local community was immediate –they gathered at the site in the morning and priest Plachta promised to hold an open air mass there every Sunday in rain or shine.
The local authorities responded to calls for a public collection which, together with the insurance money and contributions from state and church institutions would enable for the church to be rebuilt. The town’s Mayor Věra Palkovská:
“We will organize a public collection in aid of rebuilding the Guty church. And in cooperation with the Archbishopric we will make it happen.”
The diocese has already started work to salvage the charred remains so that together with existing documentation experts will be able to provide guidance on how to best rebuild the church. The Roman Catholic house of prayer dating back to 1563 was a valuable heritage site with interiors and paintings from the first half of the 16th century. The priceless interiors are lost forever and priest Kazimierz Plachta says there will be no replicas of the interiors, since that would show a lack of respect for the original artists. Among the objects that have been saved and will be installed in the new church is the statue of a saint, which was in the local museum at the time of the fire, and a chalice which is in the vicarage. The furnishings for the new church will be created by present-day artists.
Meanwhile, two of the three youths whom the police believe intentionally set fire to the rare church are in custody. The motive for their act of vandalism in not known, but the police claim they had plans to destroy more sacral heritage. The priest has said he will pray for them.