The Cistercian monastery in Oliwa was founded in 1186 by prince Sambor I of Gdańsk. He brought the monks from Kołbacz, who were led by the first abbot of Oliwa, Dane Bernard Dithard. The monastery has received several villages and valuable privileges to obtain income from fishery and mills on the Oliwa stream. The original convent had only twelve monks. Therefore, they limited themselves only to the construction of a romanesque oratory and wooden residential buildings. It was not until the first half of the thirteenth century that the oratory was adapted to the chancel, to which elongated chapels were added. At that time, a transept and the main corpus of the church with the length of four spans of the present nave were built, as well as the first brick monastery buildings.
In 1226, the monastery was plundered and burnt by pagan Prussians, and the monks were murdered. New monks soon arrived from Kołbacz and began to rebuild, but in 1236 the Prussians again plundered Oliwa. The abbey also experienced several Teutonic armed expeditions. The knights in the year 1246 burned the monastery, and in 1247 and 1252 plundered it. It was a retaliatory strike to the lands of princ Świętopełk, which the Teutonic Knights suspected of inciting the Prussians to uprising. After the Gdańsk massacre in 1308, Oliwa, along with all of Pomerania, fell under the rule of the Teutonic Knights. Initially, there were numerous conflicts on the property and territorial level between the Cistercian monastery and the Order. They expired in 1342, when Grand Master Ludolf König von Wattzau acknowledged all Cistercian claims.
In 1350, due to the inept cleaning of the kitchen chimney, the church and the monastery were completely consumed by the fire. The church was rebuilt in five years, giving it a gothic style. The presbytery was extended and an ambulatory was built in place of the liquidated chapels. Also the chapel of Holy Cross connecting with it was built. The nave was extended by four spans, which made the temple its present size. A great refectory and a lavatory were established at the monastery.
The beginning of the fifteenth century was not auspicious for the monastery: high taxes imposed by the Teutonic Knights, epidemics and the invasion of the Hussites in 1433. When in 1454 the Thirteen Years War broke out, the abbey supported the Prussian Union and the Polish king in the war with the Order. Eventually, after the year 1466, as a result of peace in Toruń, Oliwa and the entire Pomerania region passed into Polish hands as Royal Prussia.
In 1577, during the dispute between Gdańsk and king Stefan Batory, abbot Kacper Geschkau took the side of Rzeczpospolita. This led to the attack of Gdańsk Protestants on the monastery and great damages. A year later, Gdańsk finally accepted the Batory authorities and was forced to pay 20,000 gulden compensation. Thanks to this and generous assignations of the king and magnates, the monastery was rebuilt in its former shape and style.
In 1626 Oliwa was plundered by the Swedish army. In view of the fact that the monastery has lost a large part of the equipment, subsequent abbots funded a new, this time baroque temple decor. In 1660, a Swedish-Polish peace treaty was signed in Oliwa. The splendor of the abbey ended in 1772, along with the first partition of Poland, when Oliwa became under Prussian rule. In 1820, the authorities issued a ban on the admission of novices, and in 1831 liquidated the monastery. Its possessions were divided between the city of Gdańsk and the Prussian king. The novitiate, priorat and infirmary were pulled down, and some buildings were adapted for the needs of the parish.
The monastery church is a three-nave basilica with a transept and a polygonaly ended chancel with an ambulatory. The façade is flanked by two slender towers, each of 46 m high. Above the intersection of the naves is the tower of bells, a typical element of Cistercian constructions. The church is 107 m long, which is considered to be the longest temple in Poland. From the south, from the central nave, direct access leads to the St. Mary’s Chapel, which is embedded in the monastery buildings. A polygonal chapel of Holy Cross was added to the southern wing of the ambulatory. North aisle, the ambulatory and the chapel of Holy Cross were strengthened with buttresses.
The lower part of the walls of the two western chancel spans constitute the side walls of a small oratory from around 1200. Transept and four eastern spans of the naves were added with a simultaneous increase of the presbytery in the first half of the 13th century. The fifth and sixth spans of the naves, as well as two further spans of the presbytery probably come from the second half of the 13th century. From the gothic extension after 1350 comes: four remaining spans of the nave with western towers, north aisle, two eastern spans of the presbytery, an ambulatory along with the southern chapel of Holy Cross, as well as the vaults of the northern aisle, presbytery and ambulatory along with decorative ceramic bosses. The vaults of the nave and transept with painted bosses in the form of coats of arms were founded in 1582.
The complex of monastery buildings was built on a square plan with an internal square courtyard, cloisters connecting the ground floor and dormitories on the upper floors. In the oldest eastern wing there is a two-branched sacristy. The chapter house is a two-nave, three-span, covered with a groin vault supported by two columns. In the southern wing there was a great refectory. Its interior is two-nave, four-span, covered with a stellar vault supported by three columns and brackets decorated with coats of arms of church and state officials from the end of the 16th century. In the west wing there used to be a winter refectory, then a library, now the Oliwa Peace Room and two rooms covered with a rib vault.
Website dawnaoliwa.pl, Klasztorny zespół pocysterski.
Website historia-oliwy.trojmiasto.pl, Historia opactwa oliwskiego.
Website wikipedia.org, Opactwo Cystersów w Oliwie.