The abbey was founded by prince Casimir the Restorer in the second half of the 11th century. The Benedictines were then brought to a settlement founded two centuries earlier on a peninsula cutting into Lake Mogilno. The monks came from the Rhineland and Bavaria, and the monastery received large grants. The construction of church and monastery buildings began immediately after the arrival of the monks.
The monastery was rebuilt in the late Romanesque style, after the destruction by the army of prince Władysław Odonic and the conflict of monks with prince Władysław Laskonogi in the first half of the 13th century. In the fifteenth century, another reconstruction was made, which gave the monastery Gothic features.
In subsequent centuries, the political role of the monastery fell, and buildings were also destroyed. It was not until the eighteenth century that the Benedictine community began to flourish again and rebuilt the monastery complex in the Baroque style that took place in 1760-1797. In 1773, after the first partition of Poland, Mogilno was under Prussian rule, and the new authorities took over the monastery property. In 1833, the monastery was completely closed, and the buildings were given to local Catholics and Protestants for school. After 1880, the monastery housed a hospital, whereby the church still served as a parish. In 1934, the renovation was carried out, while during the Second World War German Nazis placed in it a transit camp, a prisoner-of-war camp, a prison for Jews, and a hospital. In the 1970s, archaeological and historical research was carried out at the monastery, and the building was renovated.
The church and the monastery buildings were situated on a peninsula cutting into the waters of the Mogileńskie Lake. The church was originally a three-bay, three-nave basilica with a transept and a four-sided presbytery closed in the east with an apse. The western facade was crowned with a square tower flanked by annexes that were an extension of the aisles. In addition, chapels closed with apses were attached to the eastern walls of the transept. The church was built in the Romanesque part of granite cubes.
An entrance portal was not placed in the west west facade, probably due to the proximity of the lake. The extensive ground floor of the square tower could therefore act as the second western choir. Under the church there was a complex of two Romanesque crypts covered with a barrel vault: one under the presbytery and the other under the west tower. Initially, the eastern crypt could have a vault based on pillars or a higher barrel vault (its current vault is not original because it covers two side windows). The western crypt is one of the oldest preserved vaulted interiors in Poland.
In the 13th century the presbytery of the church was rebuilt using brick laid in the monk bond, the nave was also raised a bit later (perhaps in the 14th century), also using brick but laid in the Flemish bond. In the presbytery, the old vault was removed, and after raising it was covered with a flat ceiling or an open roof truss. As a result of another late-Gothic reconstruction from the beginning of the 16th century, the former flat ceilings were replaced by an eight-pointed stellar vault in the central nave and a diamond vault in the aisles. The central nave was supported on brick, octagonal pillars with pilaster strips, which supported the vault ribs. At that time, the transept did not function, it was demolished together with side chapels, but two old cross pillars of the transept were preserved, therefore the new central nave, just like the old one, had to be slightly narrower than the choir.
The three-wing monastery buildings were attached to the church from the south. The whole was originally connected by a gallery (cloister), forming a closed quadrangle with a free garden in the middle. In it, in the eleventh century, a Romanesque well was laid, filled in around the 15th century, with an original depth of about 14 meters. The southern wing housed the abbot’s apartment, refectory and monastery kitchen; in the east wing there was a dormitory on the first floor and a chapter house in the ground floor, and finally the west wing was occupied by auxiliary, utility and lay brothers rooms.
Jarzewicz J., Kościoły romańskie w Polsce, Kraków 2014.
Kowalski Z., Gotyk wielkopolski. Architektura sakralna XIII-XVI wieku, Poznań 2010.
Świechowski Z., Sztuka romańska w Polsce, Warszawa 1990.
Website wikipedia.org, Klasztor Benedyktynów w Mogilnie.