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In most of Europe, Anabaptists, then Mennonites, were forbidden to have buildings that looked like churches. In response they developed “Hidden” churches. That is they used houses or buildings in back lots behind other buildings and nothing at street level showed a church like structure.
In Poland in 1600 they bought a private house and used it as a church. The photos you see below are of that house. It is the oldest building in the world known to be used as Mennonite Church. It is in the old part of the Polish city of Elblag (Elbing). The house next to it was destroyed in World War II.
Later, when Mennonites were permitted to have buildings as churches they sold the house and built a church building. A picture of that "new" Elblag church is on the cover Preservings, no.25, December 2005.
In the photo showing a prominent address number "12" one can just discern the letters "NITEN" which formed the last part of the word "Mennoniten."
Click on names of photos under the thumbnail to see the full-screen web edition. Access to the original may be obtained upon request from the MHSS Archives. Permission is granted to download and use the web edition photos if full credit is given and a link back to the page here where you found it. More information on churches and institutions is found at GAMEO
(Note: date convention used is day/month/year)
in Elblag - the oldest building in the world ever used as a Mennonite Church
The 12 on the blue sign indicates the house number
side and front view of building
Description: view of building front from the street
Location: Elblag, Poland
Parent fond or collection:
Access restrictions: Acknowledge MHSS
Size: 745.7 KB Original; 130.6 KB web edition
Copyright: Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan
Photographer: Victor G. Wiebe