St John Nepomucene’s Belfry Chapel in Zębowo
This two-storey votive chapel with belfry was erected in stone by an inhabitant of Zębowo Jan Klić, a master brewer for the local manor. He was also a bee keeper. Unfortunately an accident happened: the bees stung his daughter so badly that she was not expected to survive. In his prayers, Klić vowed to build a chapel dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, if his daughter’s life could be spared. When she did miraculously recover, Klić kept his promise. On the first floor of the chapel he placed a replica, exceptionally popular amongst the faithful at the time, of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in the Lourdes Grotto of Massabile (1858). It was the founder himself who carved the figures of Mary and St Bernadette Soubirous in lime wood. The area above, open to the four corners of the world, was designed to house a bell with the inscription Soli Deo Gloria – Maria 1910 (i.e. Glory to the One and Only God, the bell’s name is Mary, the year of casting 1910, probably the year of the construction of the building) and the letters S.J.K. (the Klić family monogram). The top of the chapel is adorned with a polychrome figure of Saint John Nepomucene, the founder’s patron saint, cast in artificial stone and dressed in the traditional apparel of a Prague canon. The Saint is supposed to protect the inhabitants from dangers and disasters. The bog iron stones were probably added as late as after the Second World War.
According to local lore, during the German occupation, the chapel was marked for demolition. The Nazis had dismantled the wooden sculptures which then got lost. They had also tried to steal the relatively new bell for the use in the weapons industry. However, a local German guard Adolf Poschwald convinced them that the belfry was useful as a fire or air-raid alarm point. This was especially important most houses in the village were made of wood. As a result, the belfry, the only one in the whole region managed to survive.
The year 1958 saw the establishment in Zębowo of a Roman-Catholic Parish dedicated to The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and The Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary. The temple, adapted in 1924 from farm-buildings, did not have its own bell so they used the chapel belfry for religious purposes. After the Second World War and until the new church was built with its own belfry (2003), it was the Maria bell that the people from nearby used to ring for the Angelus three times a day. To this day, the Maria bell tolls when one of the parishioners has died or to announce an important event in the life and affairs of the local community.
In 2018, thanks to the initiative of the Parish Priest Adrian Bączyński, the belfry chapel was thoroughly refurbished for the first time in its history. The restoration was carried out to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the parish and the hundredth anniversary of Poland regaining her independence after the partitions. After decades of absence, new sculptures of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and St Bernadette returned, carved in lime wood like their originals. New lighting adds to the beauty of this unique place. The belfry chapel is located on the tourist trail with badges (No 391).
Old photo belfry chapel