The Cistercian monastery was founded in 1183 by the komes Mikołaj Bogoria Skotnicki, with the help of the prince Kazimierz the Just. The first monks along with abbot Theodoric came two years later from the Morimond Abbey in France. Thanks to the efforts of the komes, the prince released the monks from taxes and gave them the first salary. The construction of the monastery church was started at the beginning of the 13th century. In 1241, the monastery was the target of the Mongol invasion, as a result of which it was devastated and plundered. Similar destruction occurred also during the second invasion in 1259. Reconstruction of the monastery after these destructions was supported by prince Bolesław V the Chaste, giving numerous religious privileges. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the efforts of the archbishop of Gniezno, Jarosław Bogoria Skotnicki, were carried out to significantly reconstruct the monastery, giving it gothic features. In 1461, the abbot Nicholas of Trzebnica initiated a major renovation, continued by his successor Nicholas of Przeworsk, during which, among others, brick cloisters were erected.
In 1508 the church and monastery were destroyed due to a fire. Reconstruction from damages was made by Nicholas of Robczyce. In 1620, under the rule of Hieronim Ossoliński, the abbots palace was erected, called “Opatówka”, and thirty years later, the abbot Zbigniew Ossoliński renovated the church and built a powerful ridge turret at the intersection of the naves. In the second half of the seventeenth century, under the supervision of the abbot Krzysztof Skotnicki, the last before the dissolution, thorough modernization works were carried out, giving the monastery baroque elements. In 1819, the tsarist authorities issued a cassation decree of the monastery, implemented by the authorities of the Kingdom of Poland. Uninhabited monastery buildings were quickly devastated and, as a consequence, the majority of monastic buildings were demolished.
The monastery church is a basilica building, a three-nave church with a transept and a rectangular presbytery, originally flanked by two chapels on a square plan. It was erected from large blocks of carefully processed sandstone. It contains elements of romanesque architecture, including vaults made of stone blocks, a friezes and a bricked rosette. The pillars and semi-columns are decorated with bas-relief geometric and plant ornaments, while the bosses are decorated with the so-called braid decoration. Gothic remains are also preserved: polychromies from the beginning of the fifteenth century, traces of sharp arches through cloisters and raised gables complemented with bricks.
The monastery buildings were largely dismantled, leaving only the eastern wing of the monastery. It is a valuable monument of romanesque architecture with gothic elements. They are noticeable traces of gothic vaults and richly decorated brackets in the form of gargoyles. The romanesque chapter house, supported on two columns with a rib vault, has survived to the present day.
Dzieje budownictwa w Polsce według Oskara Sosnowskiego, t. 1, Świechowski Z., Zachwatowicz J., Warszawa 1964.
Jarzewicz J., Kościoły romańskie w Polsce, Kraków 2014.
Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Webpage wikipedia.org, Opactwo Cystersów w Koprzywnicy.