Europe's largest wooden church restored in Poland

The Lutheran Church of Peace in Swidnica, Poland, seen in 2011, was built in the 17th century, after the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War and allowed Protestant churches to be built in Catholic areas in what was the Holy Roman Empire (AFP Photo/JANEK SKARZYNSKI)

Warsaw (AFP) - Europe's largest wooden church has recovered its original splendour after three years of restoration work, the coordinator of the project in southern Poland said Friday.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Lutheran Church of Peace in Swidnica was built in the mid-17th century and can hold up to 7,500 people. Its restoration was financed by Norway.

"It's a great day for our church and for the entire little protestant community in Swidnica which wouldn't have been able to finance the work by itself," coordinator Bozena Pytel told AFP.

The work cost 4.1 million euros ($4.4 million) and notably involved restoring the organ, pulpit and altar "of what is an exceptional example of Baroque art", Pytel added.

Bells chimed to mark the end of the makeover, which coincides with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the 1517 schism that created a Protestant branch of Christianity which rebelled against papal rule.

The construction of the evangelical church along with two other Protestant churches was allowed in Roman Catholic areas after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War, in what was then the Holy Roman Empire.

The church itself was intended to symbolise the end of the war and religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

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