Czerwińsk – Augustinian monastery

History

   The former Augustinian monastery was created on the initiative of the bishop of Płock, Alexander of Malonne in 1155. Although the church in its proper shape comes from the second quarter of the 12th century and has many elements from later centuries, it is considered a very valuable monument of romanesque architecture. In the fifteenth century, the importance of the monastery reached its apogee. King Władysław Jagiełło, who in July 1410 crossed Vistula in this place, on his way to Grunwald, prayed in Czerwińsk for the success of the war expedition. In the following years, the abbey witnessed many important political events, among others, Czerwińsk Privilege giving the knight inviolability of property without a court verdict, was accepted here. The growing importance of the church made it necessary to expand it. The first expand was taken up in 1497 by abbot Rafał, who built the porch, belfry and wall around the church. Another reconstruction took place after 40 years. Abbot Jakub Kula added the vault of the church, earlier crowned with a wooden ceiling.
   
The total change in the interior of the temple and the monastery buildings came with the baroque in the 17th century. Another change brought the 20th century. They were conservation works under the direction of Stefan Szyller, which restored the former magnificence of the temple – romanesque frescoes were discovered, towers and church facades were repaired. After the renovation, in 1923 the Salesians moved to Czerwińsk, who look after this place to this day.

Architecture

   The church was built of granite blocks and decorative elements made of sandstone. Originally it was a three-nave basilica with five spans. The eastern end was the apse in each of the aisles. The western part is a pair of towers with biforal windows. The inter-tower part rises above the roof of the nave, and the lower part has a spacious porch. It is crowned with a gothic stepped gable from 1497. The naves were covered with a timber, flat ceiling or open roof truss.
  
A great romanesque attraction in the interior are the frescoes from the 13th century. It is the largest group of romanesque paintings in Poland. Next to the romanesque frescoes, we can also find gothic, from the fifteenth century. A valuable monument is also a romanesque portal located in the porch. It comes from the first half of the twelfth century, its author was probably associated with the Italian workshop of master Wiligelm of Modena. The capitals of its columns show the strongmen struggling with symmetrically arranged monsters and demonic masks. From their mouths grows tendrils on the surface of the capital.
   The monastery buildings, adjacent to the temple from the south, come from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, unfortunately were rebuilt in the seventeenth century. They consist of three wings surrounding the inner patio. The oldest, southern part from 1398-1415 is a brick, two-story, rectangular building. On the ground floor, frescoes from the 16th century and a stellar vault from the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries have been preserved. The western wing from the 14th and 15th centuries was rebuilt on the original cellars with partial use of the first floor walls. The eastern wing is an early modern building. From the fifteenth century, also come the vicarage and belfry (the so-called Abbot Kula’s Gate).

Current state

   The monastery in Czerwińsk on the Vistula river, in spite of performing liturgical and monastic functions, is open to the public. Medieval, romanesque elements can be found mainly in the external appearance of the monastery church, as well as in the gothic gatehouse of the Abbot’s Kula Gate.

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bibliography:
Dzieje budownictwa w Polsce według Oskara Sosnowskiego, t. 1, Świechowski Z., Zachwatowicz J., Warszawa 1964.

Jarzewicz J., Kościoły romańskie w Polsce, Kraków 2014.
Żabicki J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Mazowsza i Podlasia, Warszawa 2010.