The beginning of the Bernadine friary in Radom go back to the second half of the 15th century, when the order was brought to Poland by king Casimir IV Jagiellonian. The site was designated in 1468, and was subsequently approved by the bishop of Cracow. Initially, the church and the friary, built in one year, were wooden. Because it was outside the city walls, it took the form of a fortress surrounded by earth ramparts, which allowed to defend in the case of an enemy attack.
Brick church and friary was erected in several phases. The Bernardines themselves built a brick factory in which they fired Gothic bricks. They also made lime and performed masonry work. In the first place the chancel was built together with the sacristy, which was supposed to serve as a treasury. Then the southern wing of friary was erected. The next stage was the church’s nave, built in the late 15th century. At the latest, the remaining monastery wings were erected, connected by an enclosed double-storey cloister, with a small turret in the north-eastern corner, characteristic of the medieval Bernardine monasteries. In 1598, on the north side, a St. Anna chapel was built.
During the January Uprising of 1861-1864 the friary was a place of patriotic manifestations. Here also important decisions were made with the col. M. Langiewicz. This activity was met with tsarist repressions, which resulted in the exile of many monks to Russia. By the tsarist order convent was closed, and the buildings were taken over by the government, the army and the police. In the years 1911-1914 the restaurant and the extension of the church were designed by architect Stefan Szyller. On the west side, a “tower” with a staircase and two porches were added. In addition, the church was rebuilt and later St. Anna and St. Agnes chapels joined to the aisle. Bernardians recovered the church and friary in 1936. Recent major refurbishment works were carried out in 1998-2000.
The friary was located outside the defensive walls of the old town, at the eastern part of the road running out of the city gate. The monastery complex includes the church of St. Catherine of Alexandria together with the chancel, the sacristy, the treasury, and the three wings of the convent that surround the cloister. From the south side of the monastery, there was a utility wing with a kitchen building nad oven with a pyramidal chimney. In addition, the monks at the friary had a garden, as well as a spacious yard with economic buildings, among others. with a barn and a coach house, as well as a fish pond and a meadow.
The friary church was created from a rectangular, aisleless nave and a short, lower and narrower chancel, ended on three sides in the east. The nave of the church was connected with the chancel by a residual, narrow transept, which probably originally housed a rood screen, separated on both sides by an ogival arcade. At the transept, a four-sided tower was built with the lower part embedded in the cloister. Originally, the main facade of the church was devoid of any extensions, and from the north, the nave was adjacent only to the two-bay chapel of St. Anna. The nave and chancel on each free side were reinforced with buttresses, between which there were pointed windows, a modest portal leading directly to the church, and a rosette above it. Around the nave, under the crowning cornice made of molded bricks, a frieze of diagonally placed bricks was placed. Above it, the western stepped-pinnacle gable was decorated with semicircular blendes. The interior of the nave was covered with a six-arm stellar vault with ribs springing from stone corbels, while the chancel was divided into three bays of a cross-rib vault.
The entire south wing was originally a free-standing building with a basement, built of bricks with a Flemish bond. Its corners on the eastern and western sides were reinforced with buttresses, covered with small brick roofs, and the facades were pierced with pointed windows. The wing was covered with a gable roof, framed by two different gables, decorated with plastered and stained black blendes. The eastern part of the wing on the ground floor housed the most important room from the point of view of the monastic utility. It was a large refectory and also served as a meeting place for chapters. From the west it was adjacent to the guardian’s apartment, while on the first floor there were monastic cells, which were extended towards the west at a later stage of construction. The half-bay on the north side was a passage that had the entire length of the building, which was later something like a cloister.
The eastern wing of the friary, connecting the church with the south wing, housed the sacristy, library and pantry. Probably from the fifteenth century comes a stone, pointed portal connecting these rooms with a cloister. The western wing closed the whole complex into a quadrangle, with a courtyard in the middle. Initially, the buildings of both wings were probably one-storey. Later, both arms of the complex were superstructured and covered with a gable roof. The entire friary was connected from the side of the church with a cloister, piercing pointed passageways in the buttresses. In the north-east corner of the courtyard, a small tower was erected on the reinforced walls, which was originally covered with a low, gable roof. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, near the refectory, there were also additional, perpendicular to the southern wing of the friary, extensive economic facilities.
The friary of Radom Bernardines is one of the best preserved in Poland, although it did not avoid early modern transformations. Especially at the beginning of the 20th century, the nave of the friary church was enlarged by a porch, a turret with a staircase, a western extension and a neo-Gothic northern chapel of St. Agnes with a porch. Chapel of St. Anna is today topped with a late Renaissance attic, most of the windows of the church and friary are modernized and enlarged, and the gables of the claustrum are renewed. Of the original architectural elements there are: the vaults in the nave and the chancel of the church, the late-Gothic portal in the western porch, 16th-century portals in the claustrum, several windows in the east wing with late Gothic jambs. A unique part of the complex is the outbuilding at the south wing, housing a kitchen room and a high chimney of the oven.
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. M.Arszyński, T.Mroczko, Warszawa 1995.
Janicka A., Kościół i klasztor bernardynów w Radomiu od XV do XVIII wieku, “Acta Universitatis Lodziensis”, 85/2010.
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