Cistercians were brought to Rudy about 1252 from Jędrzejów in Lesser Poland. The first temporary church, probably wooden, was built just after the arrival of the monks. The construction of a brick church began shortly later and was completed along with the east and west wing of the abbey around 1300. The church was consecrated in 1303.
The basis of the monastery’s existence were Cistercian estates, i.e. villages, forests, as well as tithes, rents, conferments, and plowing privileges. On its territory and in the surrounding estates there were vineyards, hops were grown, beer was produced, cattle and pigs were bred, and fishing was also important. Despite this, the salary and income were not very high compared to other Cistercian monasteries.
The abbey became an educational center in which there was a scriptorium already in the 13th century and a St Mary shrine to which pilgrims arrived, due to the image of Our Lady of Humility. The blossom of the monastery was disturbed, as in other Silesian monasteries, by warfare. The crisis brought the Hussite Wars in the first half of the 15th century. Hussites invasions resulted in the destruction and looting of the property. The difficult period for the monastery also brought the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. The monastery was plundered several times and charged with contributions. In 1625 the number of members of the local convent fell to five.
After the war for the monastery came the better years of the abbot Andreas Emanuel Pospel and his successors. In the years 1671-1680 the monastery and church were rebuilt to give it a Baroque character, and in 1680 the walls of the nave, transept and chancel were raised. In 1685 a porch was erected on the west side, while five years later some of the furnishings were replaced. After the fire of 1724, the western facade was completely rebuilt, and in the years 1785–1790 a comprehensive modernization of the temple interior was carried out. In 1810 the secularization introduced by the Prussian government ended the functioning of the Cistercian convent. A hospital was erected in the monastery buildings, and then handed over to the landgraf Wilhelm von Hessen-Rothenburg, who began conversion to a private palace. In 1945 the church and the abbey were burned by the Soviet army. The church was completely rebuilt in 1947 and the renovation works were carried out in stages until 2000.
The abbey was located near the small river Ruda, on the terrain falling towards it. The abbey church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in the highest place, with three-wing enclosure buildings attached to the north. On the south side of the church was a garden. Two gates led to the monastery: one to the church courtyard, the other to economic buildings, which were probably slightly less developed than in other Cistercian monasteries in Silesia.
The monastery church was built of brick complemented with sandstone in construction and decoration parts (brackets, bosses, tracery, jambs). It is a orientated structure on the plan of the latin cross, four-bay, three-aisle, basilic with a central nave higher than the aisles. The 7.4 meters wide central nave is illuminated with pointed windows, as are the 4.4 meters wide aisles. The chancel with internal dimensions of 7.5×7.3 meters and adjacent side chapels were erected on a square, referring to the mother’s abode in Jędrzejów. The chancel has a window opening of much larger size than the other windows, filled with three-light tracery. Originally the church was towerless (which the strict Cistercian rule required), only a small ridge turret was placed at the intersection of the naves. The length of the entire building was 48.5 meters. It was reinforced on each side with external buttresses.
The main element of the west façade was the Romanesque – Gothic entrance portal. Its jambs with trefoil lintel were made of sandstone and ceramic fittings. In the stepps of the lower part of the portal, on high bases, stone columns with cube heads with floral decoration were placed, and next columns without heads met in the arcade top. Above the portal in the Middle Ages there was a small triangular gable and an oculus with a rosette composed of a central trefoil and six other trefoils arranged radially.
The interior of the church was covered with rib vaults, and the individual bays were separated by wide arch bands flowing down the central nave into the pillars between the aisles and hanging pilasters. On the one hand, the arch bands of side aisles flow down to the wall pillars with embedded corner columns and on the other they pass into a buttress connected with inter-nave pillars. The almost square bays of the nave correspond to the rectangular bays of the aisles.
In the northern wall of the extremely western bay, the ogival portal led to a narrow passage, half a meter wide, in the thickness of the wall, which was connected to the round tower with a winding staircase and a handrail carved in the wall. These stairs led above the vaults of the nave. From the outside, the turret leaned on a stone corbel.
The interior of the church was originally covered with polychrome, placed mainly on the more important structural elements and in the presbytery on larger planes. White and red stripes, 4-5 brick wide appeared on the ribs and inter-bay arch bands, and individual segments were separated by stripes of free lines painted along the joints. In the aisles, black stripes were painted, while in the central nave, three-part, black and white. The gray-blue polychrome covered the stems of the wall pillars, its heads and supports, and the white fields of the arch bands were decorated with red, cinquefoil rosettes. The presbytery painting decor consisted of the colorful decoration of the lower part of the vault walls and the eastern window jamb. In addition, about 1.2 meters above the floor was a zone with a painted curtain, imitably suspended on wheels and hooks. Gray-blue, cinnabar, red, yellow, white and black were used.
The three-winged monastery buildings surrounded the square patio, located north of the church. During its construction, the Cistercian layout of the rooms was strictly preserved. In the eastern wing, adjacent to the north transept of the church, there was a sacristy with a separate armaria on the ground floor (room for a handy book collection). It was housed in two square rib vaulted bays and was separated from the armaria by a wide arcade similar to those found in the church. Next to the sacristy was the chapter house, stairs leading to the first floor (a prison cell was placed under them), an auditorium and a spacious room for monks working inside the monastery. The two northern rooms of the east wing were added a little later, at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. The chapter house was a four-bay room, covered with rib vaults supported by wall columns and the central pillar. The upper floor of the wing housed the treasury, the abbot’s room and the dormitory, which were connected by stairs in the transept directly to the church (to facilitate the monks come to night prayers).
The west wing had three floors, illuminated by three levels of windows. The lower one, about 2.6 meters high, probably housed a cellar (storerooms, pantries). On the eastern side it was completely immersed in the ground, and from the west only partially, which made possible to pierce there the entrance portal and windows there. The next two floors, 1.9 and 2.7 meters high, were probably separated by wooden ceilings, which were at half-span supported by timber pillars. Stairs probably led from the cellar to the ground floor rooms. Most probably it were occupied by a lay brothers refectory, whose bedrooms were on the top floor.
In the one-story northern wing, erected at the latest (maybe in the fourteenth century), the warming room, refectory and kitchen were situated and a lavatory opposite the dining room, located in the cloister surrounding the inner patio. The cloister walls were reinforced from the outside with regularly set buttresses, located on the border of the bays of vaults.
Today monastery buildings have completely lost their original style. Only the sacristy with the armaria and fragments of the chapter-house in the east wing have been preserved. Also, the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary received a Baroque façade, and the facades of the transept and presbytery were crowned with new gables. The medieval remains of the temple layout, especially the nave and aisles, although the walls of the central nave and transept were raised in the 17th century, which destroyed the original cornice.
Kozaczewska H., Średniowieczne kościoły halowe na Śląsku, “Kwartalnik Architektury i Urbanistyki”, 1-4, Warszawa 2013.
Łużyniecka E., Architektura klasztorów cysterskich, Wrocław 2002.
Pilch J., Leksykon zabytków architektury Górnego Śląska, Warszawa 2008.
Rybandt S., Średniowieczne opactwo cystersów w Rudach, Wrocław 1977.
Świechowski Z., Architektura na Śląsku do połowy XIII wieku, Warszawa 1955.