It’s the 2011 holiday season and this week we’ve decorated our halls with figures of Father Christmas, boughs of foliage, Christmas trees, and holiday lights. One of our favorite items to display during the holidays are our Polish ornaments. These ornaments are a reflection of our institutional friendship with the Grodziec Castle in Poland, a place where Schwenkfelders were imprisoned in the 17th century. Mr. Zenon Bernacki, the manager of the Grodziec Castle donated the ornaments to us and in turn we can share the European Schwenkfelder story with our visitors.
Our ornaments are a reminder to us of the Schwenkfelder’s experience in Europe and a reflection of the generosity shown to today’s Schwenkfelders when they’ve returned to their homelands to learn about their heritage.
Both of the ornaments can be found on our library information desk on the first floor. One ornament depicts the Grodziec Castle, formerly called the Groditzberg Castle. The other depicts the coat of arms for the Schwenckfeld family.
The Grodziec Castle was a place where those that rebelled against the local authorities were imprisoned in the 17th century. During our Heritage Tour of Schwenkfelder homelands in Europe, SLHC staff members, Schwenkfelder descendents, members of the Schwenkfelder church, and others traveled to remember and learn about the experiences of their Schwenkfelder ancestors at the Grodziec Castle.
Rev. Karen Gallegher of the Schwenkfelder Church,wrote about her experience after visiting the Grodziec castle in 2003:
It was told to us that Schwenkfelders [in the 17th century], and others who refused to attend the Catholic or Lutheran church services, were imprisoned in this castle… It was a very small damp, dark circular room, about six feet in diameter. There was a small slit window and a heavy wooden door with a tiny window – this was the only light in the cell… People were imprisoned there, without food or water, until they agreed to attend one of the two “approved” church services… That cell in Grodziec Castle has stayed with me ever since. Would I have had the kind of faith to stand my ground like that?
The second ornament displays the Schwenckfeld coat of arms. The coat of arms is also seen on the portrait of Caspar Schwenckfeld on display in our gallery, and on many printed portraits of Caspar Schwenckfeld in our collection. The tartar cap featured on the Schwenckfeld coat of arms symbolizes the praiseworthy service of those in the battle of Wahlstatt against the Mongols in 1241.
To learn more about the Schwenkfelders experience in Europe and in America, we encourage you to visit our museum and library. We thank Mr. Zenon Bernacki, the manager of the Grodziec Castle, for donating the ornaments to us so that we can continue share the European Schwenkfelder story with our visitors and information about the Grodziec Castle.
Quote located in “Reflections on a Journey” Ephesians 1:3-14; Psalm 121 (Meditation – Matthew 11:28-30) by Rev. Karen K. Gallagher, delivered at Central Schwenkfelder Church, Lansdale, PA, 2003.