Replica of historic Czech wooden church rises from the ashes

Photo: Tomáš Pika / Czech Radio

The wooden Corpus Christi church in the village of Třinec-Guty, nestled in the Cieszyn Silesia region that today borders Poland, stood on the site for more than 450 years. The beloved national cultural monument, a site of pilgrimage for believers and nature-lovers alike, was burnt to the ground one August night three years ago, in a deliberate act of arson. While the diocese immediately vowed to rebuild, getting the necessary permits proved difficult. Only now is a replica of the 16th century house of worship rising, like a proverbial phoenix from the ashes.

“I remember that night there was a strong wind and intense heat. We looked out the window and saw a huge glow. We could not believe it was the Guty church. I had tears in my eyes. I had my own wedding there.”

Three years later, local resident Vladislav Němčik, one of many thousands of Czech who have donated money to rebuild the wooden Corpus Christi church, was again drawn to the site – but this time by the joyful sound of carpenters hard at work on the replica.

Photo: archive of Fire Rescue Service of the Moravian-Silesian Region

The heat of the August 2017 fire had been so intense that even the church bells melted in the blaze, along with carved wood interiors and previous paintings dating back to the first half of the 16th century.

Václav Kotásek, head of the construction for the Ostrava-Opava diocese, told Czech Radio that work in going well, and while a replica is not a true replacement, this version of the famous Corpus Christi church will likewise be built to last centuries – and better withstand fire.

“Construction is going quite quickly. It took three full weeks to complete the foundation. Work on the new wooden structure started last Tuesday, and in just three days we managed to make the cabin of our own ‘ship’ and the truss you can see here. This week, the entire lower part of the tower will be done. So, work is moving forward very fast.”

Like the original, the replica church is made of wood from fir and spruces trees. One blessing for the builders was that ahead of extensive renovation in 2012, a meticulous project documentation was prepared, giving carpenters a literal blueprint to create a faithful replica.

Meanwhile, the new Corpus Christi church – like rare original Czech wooden churches and other cultural monuments still standing – will be outfitted with an electronic alarm directly linked to a fire brigade’s computer system, Kotásek says.

“In addition, a 25-cubic tank of fire water must be built here in the vicinity. Thanks to what has happened, wooden churches are gradually being retrofitted with modern fire-fighting elements. So, we are moving forward in this area.”

Bishop Martin David of the Ostrava-Opava diocese says he expects that the basic construction will be finished over the summer holiday. The consecration of the new Corpus Christi church, however, will likely come next spring – the season of rebirth.