Czerwińsk – Augustinian Monastery

History

   The Regular Canons Monastery was founded on the initiative of the Płock bishop Alexander of Malonne in 1155. In 1328, the convent’s buildings burned down, and new ones were erected in the gothic style. In the fifteenth century, the importance of the monastery reached its apogee. In the years 1398-1415 and 1470-1502 it was rebuilt and enlarged. In 1497, Abbot Rafał built a porch, bell tower and wall around the church. Another reconstruction took place in the years 1524-1538 on the initiative of abbot Jakub Kula, who added the vault of the church, previously crowned with a wooden ceiling.
  
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 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. It was not until 1959-1970 that the reconstruction of the west wing of the monastery was completed.

Architecture

   The church was built of granite blocks and decorative elements made of sandstone. It was originally a three-nave basilica with five bays. The eastern end was apse in each of the aisles, while the western part was a pair of four-sided towers with two-light windows. The nave was covered with a ceiling or open roof truss. The main entrance was located on the west side, where a romanesque portal from the first half of the 12th century was located. Its author was probably associated with the Italian workshop of master Wilihelm of Modena. The capitals of its columns are presented strongmen struggling with symmetrically arranged monsters and demonic masks, from whose mouths grow sprigs surrounding the surface of the capital.
   The first change introduced in the romanesque building was adding of the rectangular sacristy in the thirteenth century on the south side, at the presbytery. At that time, the apse of the southern aisle was demolished, which was replaced by a straight wall of large bricks, on which from the inside a late-romanesque painting of the history of salvation was made. In the fourteenth century, the delicate transept arches were strengthened by thickening with solid brick arcades. During the fifteenth century, the transept arcades were completely walled up, placing internal stairs to the rood screen in the thickness of these walls. By abandoning the transept, a long, single-space presbytery closed with an apse was obtained. Also the eastern part of the northern aisle separated by a wall at the height of the chancel arcade, obtained a separate room for the chapel. A late gothic figural painting has been preserved on its southern wall. In front of the western facade of the church, a spacious porch was built, or rather a narthex with a rich stepped-pinnacle gable from 1497 with an unusual decoration in Mazovia in the form of rectangular blendes and triangular small gables. At the same time, a low belfry with a gate in the ground level, decorated with analogous gables like on narthex, was built on the right side of the courtyard in front of the church.
  
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 elements can be found mainly in the external and internal, romanesque appearance of the monastery church, as well as in the gothic belfry called the Gate of Abbot Kula. Frescoes from the 13th century are a great romanesque attraction in the interior of the monastery church. It is the largest group of romanesque paintings in Poland. In addition to romanesque frescoes, we also find gothic ones from the 15th century. A valuable monument is also a romanesque portal located in the west porch. Western gables, apse rib vault, refectory stellar vault, numerous stone details (lintels, jambs) and chapter house portal from 1527 come from the time of the gothic reconstruction.

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bibliography:
Dzieje budownictwa w Polsce według Oskara Sosnowskiego, t. 1, Świechowski Z., Zachwatowicz J., Warszawa 1964.
Kunkel R.M., Architektura gotycka na Mazowszu, Warszawa 2005.

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