Chełmno – convent of the Daughters of Charity

History

   The monastery of the Daughters of Charity in Chełmno is a former Cistercian monastery founded around 1266 from the donation of Bertold of Czyste and his wife Krystyna. In 1267, at the request of the bishop and the Teutonic land master, the mayor and the town council gave the nuns four building plots with the town gate to the area of ​​the future monastery, with the condition that the nuns bear the costs of building of defensive walls and repairing wooden defenses on this section. Subsequent donations took place in the fourth quarter of the thirteenth and early fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century, one of the then superiors of the convent was the sister of Nicolaus Copernicus.
   In the sixteenth century, the monastery significantly declined, due to the Reformation, which penetrated the Chełmno Land. In addition, the town was ravaged by plague, so that at one point only two nuns remained in the convent. The situation was changed by joining the energetic abbess Magdalena Mortęska to the monastery in 1579. It led to the adoption of the strict rule of Saint Benedict and renewal of the monastery, which became the center of the so-called Chełmno reform, radiating to convents throughout Poland. At that time, many construction works were carried out, thoroughly rebuilding the monastery buildings, among others, chapels were added and the tower was raised.
  
The period of the greatest splendor of the Chełmno monastery was interrupted by the Polish-Swedish wars that ravaged monastic possessions. The Benedictine convent was dissoluted by the Prussians in 1821 and a year later the monastery buildings were taken over by nuns from the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity.
 

Architecture

    Monastery church of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist was built in the north-western corner of the Old Town, on the edge of a high slope of the Vistula. It was built in several stages between 1280 and 1330. At the end of the 13th century, circumferential walls were erected. Around 1310-1320, the lower church was vaulted, and around 1330 also the upper church was vaulted and gothic, western halfgables were built by the tower.
   
It is a brick, single-nave, four-span structure with a pentagonal ended chancel section. The church is buttressed, from the west there is a high gable topped with a turret from the beginning of the 17th century. The corpus is two-storey, thanks to the incorporation of a spacious, brick matroneum. The interior is covered with a stellar vault, a low part under a gallery – groin, supported on two pillars. In 1595, the burial chapel of nuns was added to the presbytery from the north, and from the south a chapel of Saint Michael.
   
Medieval equipment of the monastery church include brought from Flanders, a tombstone of the burgher of Arnold Lischoren who died in 1275. This is one of the oldest monuments of sculpture in Pomerania. Before the mid-fourteenth century, vault bosses were created, and in the mid-century wall paintings on the matroneum – the Song of Songs cycle, with iconography unique on a European scale. From the end of the 14th century comes the figure of Christ in a grave with moving arms.
   The oldest element in the monastery is the so-called The Mestwin Tower, perhaps founded in the second quarter of the 13th century, as a Teutonic watchtower. To the church from the west adjoins the oldest, northern monastery wing, connecting with the Mestwin Tower. In the Middle Ages, also the west wing was built, adjacent to the north and east, not connected with the church. In the eastern section there is a tower, probably a former gate.

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bibliography:
Webpage icimss.edu.pl, Chełmno Zespół klasztorny pocysterski, ob. SS. Miłosierdzia.
Webpage wikipedia.org, Zespół klasztorny Sióstr Miłosierdzia w Chełmnie.