The construction of the Franciscan church and monastery began around 1275 on the initiative of prince Bolesław the Pious and his wife Jolenta. The work was interrupted by the founder’s death in 1279, but shortly thereafter, Prince Przemysł II began building the Poor Clares monastery, where the duchess Jolenta had to find shelter. The one-nave church of the Poor Clares was probably ready in 1283. Only later further work was begun in the Franciscan church. Its construction was probably completed around 1295.
Churches and monastery buildings burnt down in 1613. After rebuilding and especially after a thorough reconstruction in the second half In the 18th century, they lost many of their original style features. In 1836, the Prussian authorities closed the Franciscan monastery, a year later the same fate affected the Poor Clares. The Franciscan monastery was occupied by the army, and the Poor Clares house was demolished at the turn of the sixties and seventies of the 19th century. The Franciscans returned to their former seat in 1928. In the years 1930-32 they carried out the restoration of the temple, restoring it in part to Gothic forms.
Early Gothic church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. Antoni was built as a aisleless building with a five-bay nave and an elongated, four-bay presbytery on the rectangular plan of the same width as the nave. On the north side, a two-level oratory of the Poor Clares was added, and from the west in the fifteenth century was added a four-storey, four-sided tower, covered with a pyramid roof. Outside, the church was fastened with buttresses, between which narrow ogival windows were pierced, with a distinctive large eastern window. Above the nave and the presbytery a gable roof was placed, while the oratory was covered with a mono-pitched roof.
All the nave and presbytery bays received a progressive rectangular plan transverse to the church axis, except for the last bay of the nave, which was built on a square plan. The presbytery was crowned with an early Gothic cross – rib vault supported on consoles without wall shafts (the first such example in Greater Poland), but it is not known whether the nave was originally covered with a vault or only a wooden ceiling.
The gallery on the first floor of the Poor Clares oratory was opened to the nave with windows, and a mortuary was located in its ground floor. Perhaps its ogival arcades connected with the nave, or maybe it was only one arcade leading to the eastern bay of the oratory (where Princess Jolenta was buried there in 1305).
The monastery church was significantly transformed in the early modern period. This applies especially to external facades, but also in the interwar period the oratory floor was liquidated and transformed into an aisle, by pircing large arcades in the wall. The pseudo-Gothic vault of the nave was founded in 1930-1932, however the original vault of the presbytery has been preserved. Of the medieval monastery buildings, only the foundations remain, on which a new monastery was erected in the 18th century.
Kowalski Z., Gotyk wielkopolski. Architektura sakralna XIII-XVI wieku, Poznań 2010.
Maluśkiewicz P., Gotyckie kościoły w Wielkopolsce, Poznań 2008.
Webpage regionwielkopolska.pl, Kościół klasztorny franciszkanów pw. Wniebowzięcia NMP i św. Antoniego w Gnieźnie.