The church in Bukowo Morskie (Seebukow) was founded on the initiative of the Cistercian Order probably in the first half of the fourteenth century, presumably as part of a now-defunct monastery complex. In 1248, the Pomeranian prince Świętopełk offered villages of Boryszewo and Przystawa to the Cistercians from Dargun in Mecklenburg, and in 1252 he extended the donation by new villages, including Bukowo. It is known that the first Cistercians stayed in Bukowo already in 1262. Although the monastery was endowed with extensive goods, it was not possible immediately to start erecting permanent buildings, because these properties were mostly settlements that required development. The abbey in Bukowo existed until 1535, when it was dissolved due to the ongoing Reformation. Since then, the church served as a parish temple.
The church was erected as a very unusual for Cistercians and at the same time a modest building, however, not devoid of higher artistic aspirations. The church received a nave and two aisles in a hall system, with a four-bay nave and a five-sided, single-bay chancel, spacious for a rural parish temple, but relatively small for the needs of even a small convent. At the end of the 15th century, a tower was attached to the nave of the church on the west side, and a small sacristy on the north side.
In the central nave, bays similar to a squares were used, and in slightly narrower aisles, rectangular bays, with the western ones clearly longer than the others. Outside, the church was surrounded with stepped buttresses and a two-section, moulded plinth. It was covered with gable roofs separated by a triangular gable with pinnacles. The tower was equipped with three floors with a porch in the ground floor, and its raw external façades were not decorated. Originally, it was open on the ground floor with arcades forming a passage along the north-south axis. A similar solution was used in a few municipal parishes (Chociwel, Gryfino, Stargard) and several village churches. In Bukowo, they may have been important in connection with the processions.
Three Gothic portals led to the interior of the church: from the west, north and south, the latter of which was decorated with a moulding. The walls inside the church were divided with arcades. The chancel and the central nave were crowned with stellar vaults in the 15th century, and in the aisles with a cross-rib vaults (enriched with a transverse rib in the western bays), based on square pillars with rounded corners. The chancel received a strongly separated space, twice as wide as the width of the central nave and the chancel arch. Interestingly, the ribs of its vault near the boss changed their profile. In the central part, fittings from the reserve remaining after works in the nave were used.
A characteristic feature of the nave’s vaults, indicating their appearance after the mid-fifteenth century, was the non-use of inter-nave arches, instead of which only single ribs were led between the pillars. Despite the different arrangement of ribs in individual aisles and central nave, the impression of an interior was typical of the late Gothic style, devoid of clear directions. The privileging of the longitudinal axis was not evidenced by the rows of pillars or the tunnel-like nature of the vaults, but only by the perspective of the brightly lit interior of the chancel, which stands out from the central nave.
The church in Bukowo Morskie is one of the most interesting medieval sacral monuments in Pomerania. Its aisled, hall nave with a short chancel and narrow tower does not have any analogy in the Cistercian churches of Europe, both male and female monasteries. Moreover, it is mostly inconsistent with the Cistercian building statutes. The shape of the church is also difficult to explain with reference to local building traditions, as similar forms do not exist in towns or villages in Pomerania, and even in the neighboring Brandenburg and Mecklenburg. What’s more, despite the archaeological research, no traces of monastery buildings were found in its vicinity.
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