Oświęcim – Dominican Friary


   The Dominicans were brought to Oświęcim at the end of the 13th century by the Cieszyn prince, Mieszko. At the beginning of the 14th century, they started the construction of the monastery church and enclosure buildings, which were continued during the reign of Władysław, the prince of Oświęcim, and his wife Eufrozyna.
   In the years 1608-1610 the monastery church was rebuilt in the Renaissance style. During the Swedish invasion of the so-called Swedish Deluge, the monastery was turned into barracks. After the monastery was closed down by Emperor Joseph II in the first quarter of the 19th century, it was turned into a warehouse. The building fell into disrepair and was completely ruined.
   In 1895, during the procession on the occasion of Corpus Christi, the Virgin Mary appeared on the ruins of the church, which became an impulse for the recovery and reconstruction of the temple by the Catholic community of the town. The former monastery church was restored by the Salesians. During the reconstruction, the presbytery was turned into a nave due to the new entrance. From the west, in the 1980s, a new nave of the same height was added, partly in style referring to the former part of the church.


   The monastery church was built of bricks in the south-west part of the town, near the riverside slope falling towards the Soła flowing in the west. Originally, it consisted of a church and enclosure buildings added to it from the south.
   The monastery church received the form typical of a temple of the Mendicant Orders. Originally it consisted of a single, four-bay nave and a narrower, elongated, three-bay chancel closed in the east with a straight wall. Outside, the church was surrounded with buttresses, two-stepped in the chancel, and three-stepped in the nave. The walls of the presbytery between the buttresses were divided by pairs of pointed windows with stone traceries. In the nave there were large, three-light, pointed windows, one between two buttresses. Both parts of the building were covered with gable roofs. Inside the presbytery, it was separated by a lancet chancel arch and covered with a six-field rib vault.
   The enclosure buildings, together with the church surrounded a cloisters garth located from the south. Their exact layout is unknown, but it can be presumed that they duplicated the most common layout with the chapter house in the ground floor and the dormitory on the first floor of the east wing, and with the refectory and kitchen in the southern part. The chapter house, in which the whole convent met for daily deliberations, was covered with a double-bay, cross-rib vault with an uncomplicated profile of ribs, with round bosses and pyramid-shaped corbels. There was a crypt under the chapter house.

Current state

   To this day, a rebuilt church has survived from the former Dominican monastery, enlarged by a modern western part, partly stylistically referring to the original medieval part. It differs from the older, historic one, among others, in the lighter color of the bricks. Inside, the interior and furnishings of the church come mainly from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the buildings of the Dominican enclosure, the chapter house has survived. After being transformed it serves as a free-standing chapel of St. Jacek, in the crypt of which were probably buried princes of Oświęcim, including Władysław I and his wife Eufrozyna, founders of the monastery.

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Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Website wikipedia.org, Kościół Matki Bożej Wspomożenia Wiernych w Oświęcimiu.