Pelplin – Cistercian Abbey


   In 1258 prince Mszczuj II brought the Cistercians from Bad Doberan in Mecklenburg to nearby Pogódek, but in 1274 he gave the friars a new wages, granting them Pelplin. The emergence of the monastery probably was associated with the establishment of a counterweight to the growing and dominant monastery in Oliwa. The original small wooden complex from the 13th century was replaced by a monumental foundation in the 14th century. Construction began in the second quarter of the fourteenth century and lasted until about 1400, although the arms of the transept were not vaulted until 1557. From 1366 and 1377 come mentions of acquiring by monks wood and stone for construction purposes. In 1396, the bishop of Chełmno Wikbold Dobilstein, in his will, saved money for the construction of the church, and it is also known about indulgences from the fifteenth century, supporting construction work. Apart from the buildings located around the cloisters, in the western part of the complex were built economic buildings with a brewery, and in the eastern part a small church of Corpus Christi.
In the 15th century the monastery was destroyed and ransacked during the invasion of the Hussites and the Thirteen Years War. From 1464, the abbey was taken over by king Kazimierz the Jagiellonian, confirming all the previously granted privileges. It survived the crisis of the Reformation with the help of king Sigismund I the Old, who prevented its secularization and the takeover by the Protestants. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a thorough baroque reconstruction of the temple took place. It received a rich interior design including altars, organ and pulpit. After the secularization of the Cistersian order by the Prussian king Frederick II, the monastery slowly lost its importance. In 1810 a ban on the admission of novices was issued, and in 1823 a dissolution of the Order took place. Although the site lost its religious character, it retained its sacred function, as the capital of the reorganized Chełmno diocese was transferred to Pelplin, and the monastery church was raised to the dignity of the cathedral. The whole site was completely renovated and reghotisated in 1894-1899.


   The monastery church was built of brick and it is a huge three-nave basilica on the latin cross plan, with a five-bay nave, a two-bay transept and a four-bay, rectangular ended chancel, which flank the side aisles. Transept has an hall system and consists of two aisles. The length of the basilica is as much as 84 meters, the width is almost 30 meters, and the height of the central nave and transept reaches 26 meters, thanks to this on the Teutonic lands, the church was second only to the St. Mary basilica in Gdańsk.
Outside the walls are buttressed and have partly preserved zendrówka decorations. The front walls of the transept, as well as the western and eastern façades are decorated with richly decorated, stepped gables. To the eastern and western façades are adjoining low, octagonal towers, flanking the elevations of the central nave. They perform communication functions, and at the same time they replace buttresses and give the impression of making the church look like a castle. There are three entrances to the church: from the west, north and south from the cloisters. The last two have preserved gothic portals. The richest portal to the northern transept is decorated with brickwork and archivolts made partly of brick and partly of artificial stone. The outer, most decorative archivolt has the shape of a fashionable in the late Middle Ages ogee arch. The tympanum is a conservation creation from the 19th century.
The architecture of the arms of the transept is different from the rest of the church, thanks to the net vaults; the remaining parts of the temple are covered with a stellar vaults. The vaults are supported by the octagonal pillars, which at the height of the walls of the nave are partially embedded in the wall face and form pointed arcades. The window zone is located above the cornice; above which the walls of individual bays take the pointed form. Partially preserved are ceramic arch supports with anthropomorphic motifs in the form of heads, busts, atlants and zoomorphic performances. In the church there is a group of late gothic stalls with rich woodcarving, tracery, ornamental, vegetal and figural decorations. They were made in the fifteenth century.
The south side of the monastic complex is integrated with a cloister surrounding the quadrilateral. The oldest eastern wing of the cloister is covered with a rib vault, the remaining with stellar vault. The gothic paintings on the walls preserved in the southern arm of the cloisters, dated to the fourteenth century. The eastern wing is adjacent to a chapter house with a gothic stellar vault supported by three pillars. Chapter house is preceded by a hall which is decorated with a portal and supports with masks. On the axis of the portal of the hall, within the chapter-house, opposite the entrance to the refectory, there is a gothic lavabo on the plan of a hexagon, reconstructed in 1899 on discovered foundations. Next to the chapter house is a free-standing 13th-century oratory building.

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Grzybkowski A., Gotycka architektura murowana w Polsce, Warszawa 2016.
Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.

Website, Bazylika katedralna Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Pelplinie.