Sights in a Queer Little Pomeranian Town Where All Are Happy.


Church Architecture in the Baltic Ports–The Sankt Marien Church of Schivelbein and That of the Same Name at Stargard

Originally published in The New York Times on September 5, 1897. Now in the public domain.

SCHIVELBEIN, Pomerania, Aug. 17–It is market day in Schivelbein, and the cobblestones of the market place are covered with wagons filled with calves and pigs; in one corner is a herd of sheep, and down the narrow street by the church are cows and horses for sale. Heavy figures in rustic cloths, or in black coats, slouch about; after a bargain is concluded they enter one of the many little inns to clinch the bargain with schnaps or beer. There is talk of the Autumn manoeuvres–the station is crowded with young rustics in uniform, with here and there an officer noticeably different from the others in the face and figure as if from a different race–and the talk is of shooting; to-morrow begins the open season for partridge and hare. The animals for sale at the Schivelbein cattle market are neither very numerous nor of high quality, but the prices received appear to satisfy the sellers. To be sure, Schivelbein is a very small town on the line between Stettin and Königsberg. It looks fairly prosperous; from the farmers on the market and the men in the inns, one does not get the impression that agriculture is rapidly going to the devil, as the noble lords, spokesmen for agriculture in the Reichstag and the Prussian Landtag, would have Germany believe. People seem surprised when this view of it is broached; they maintain that things are comfortable, prices, especially  for grain, going up, and no particular trouble is to be seen ahead. The heavy storms and floods have done little damage in these parts of Prussia; in fact, if one may judge from these people, the wails of the Agrarians are in the nature of political moves intended to impress the Government and keep the rascally Liberals down.

Schivelbein Market, 1903

Schivelbein is one of those stations at which no one would stop who did not happen to know people there or was not pursued by a general thirst for knowledge, a curiosity, let us say, to find out what a place with so queer a name looks like. To the flaneur in Europe, whose time is cheap, Schivelbein is not without its rewards–in primis, through a sight of the “comfortable” looking agricultural persons, then of queer old taverns with the woodwork under the low windows rubbed back by generations of shoulder, next, of its one remaining town gate, the Steinthor, which justifies its name of stone gate by being built chiefly, if not entirely, of brick.

Schivelbein sounds like “crooked leg,” but may be a German way of pronouncing some old Pomeranian name. Among its citizens I did not observe more than the ordinary number of bandy legs or knock-knees; perhaps the breed of settlers that gave it name, supposing always it was not originally a Slavonic place, were used up during the Thirty Years’ War, a time when records, houses, farms, villages, and whole cities were obliterated from the face of the earth–whence, among other difficulties, the frequent impossibility of running old German families back to any great antiquity. For Schivelbein itself only 600 years is claimed. It is said to have been founded in 1296, but is has a castle which is thought to date somewhat earlier in the thirteenth.

The Quaint Old Schloss

The Schloss at Schivelbein is used for public offices. Its round tower, with shingled bell-shaped top, is a landmark from afar, and works in very picturesquely with the quadrangle of three stories height, at one of whose angles it rises. From the style of its architecture the quadrangle can scarcely date back of the seventeenth century. Its shingled roof, rendered wavy in surface through giving way of rafters, has at agreeable distances “sleepy-eyes” for windows; the walls below are severely simple and the windows are placed with an unpremeditated irregularity, which gives very agreeable results to the onlooker. One side of the quadrangle, where the ground slopes to a little stream, is lower than the other three; here are the old stables, built, perhaps, as late as the last century, with very picturesque roofs. The town offices, the families of officials, and so forth, have taken possession of this ancient barrack on the link of the walls; heads of children and housemaids look out on the rough-stoned court; chickens and pigeons stroll about; on two sides of the exterior the flower and kitchen gardens show that some attention has been paid them. Moats and outer works have nearly disappeared, but the place still maintains a certain look of reserve, as if it could remember the time when Christian Poles and heathen Lithuanians might be apt to penetrate thus far in their striking and burning benefits of Teutonic civilization at that early day.

Schivelbein Schloss, 1902

Beside that gaunt relic of its old walls, and the picturesque little Schloss, the noble town of Schivelbein has a brick church, the Sankt Marien Kirche, which towers over is low-pitched roofs. It is a church of the thirteenth century, with a massive square tower tumbling, at a respectable height, in toward an eight-sided top of wood, this being crowned by a small octagonal structure, the spire thus made passing from an octagonal into a sharp-pointed cone. The front of the massive tower is relieved by three, four, and seven openings in so many stories, one above the over; but of these only one in the first story and two in the second are opened through, in very narrow lancet-shaped windows: all the rest are false or blind windows that relieve the bareness of the wall, but perform no practical duty in lighting the interior. In these windows the round and pointed arches are mingled. It recalls the Holy Ghost at Stettin, a much larger church but not so agreeable in outlines. As in that rugged building there is no generous portal, unmistakable as the entrance to the sanctuary, but several little entrances exist in unexpected places. It is not uneven in general tone, like the cathedral at Stettin, which is red in general, but irregularly black in spots where bricks of a dark color have been used.

Another St. Mary’s Church

The Marien Kirche at Stargard, this side of Stettin, is also a much larger, more important pile, as befits a city which always took a far more prominent part in Pomeranian history. That St. Mary’s is just off the corner of the market place of Stargard as this St. Mary’s is off the corner of the place at Schivelbein, just as the Frauen Kirche at Dresden stands at the corner of the  Altmarkt there. Its central facade, with main entrance is squeezed between two broad and high masses; on the left is the big, square tower, with turrets above its four corners, a belfry and double lantern; on the right another tower ending in a simple sloped roof. Stargard has also three old gateways remaining: the Pyritzer, the Wall, and the Mühlenthor, all very suggestive of towns in Holland. Flemish is the suggestion of the City Hall in Stargard, with its curious baroque tracery decorations on the upper gable. Stettin, Pasewalk, Stargard, Stolp, and Danzig–these are cities that young architects might visit in order to study a rude sort of ecclesiastical architecture-line. They can be studied profitably before going on the Baltic to the Island of Gothland, where one finds the ruined churches of Wisby, very important in the study of Romanesque and early Gothic.

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