The church of St. James and the monastery was erected from the foundation of the bishop of Cracow Iwo Odrowąż in the years 1226-1250. This was then the second Dominican monastery in Cracow and one of the oldest in Europe. It stood on the spot of an older church from 1211, founded perhaps by the duchess Adelaide, the daughter of prince Casimir II of Cracow. At the turn of 1259 and 1260, the Mongols slaughtered all the Dominicans with the prior Sadok, but soon came to Sandomierz the Dominicans from other convents. At the beginning of the 14th century the early gothic belfry was added to the western wall of the temple. In 1399 the church underwent the first major renovation after the destruction it suffered during the invasion of Lithuanians and fire. The financial support was provided by queen Jadwiga Andegaweńskia, who often visited the monastery.
At the beginning of the 17th century, baroque elements were added, mainly inside chapels. In the 18th century the monastery complex gradually fell into disrepair, and in 1864 the monastery was dissoluted. In the 70s of the nineteenth century, necessary restoration work was started. After the fire of 1905, which consumed the main altar and part of the chancel, a thorough reconstruction of the church was carried out, during which romanesque structures were restored. The church was damaged during the Second World War, another restaurant was not present until the turn of the 80s and 90s.
Church of St. James and the monastery are located on one of the Sandomierz hills, called Świętojakubski. It is a late romanesque church with a simple ended chancel and a northwest, corner, two-storey belfry. Walls of the belfry are supported by buttresses. An interesting solution is the north-western buttress, which has an arcade passage, which once enabled communication with the western wing of the monastery.
In the northern facade of the church there is a main entrance, a magnificent, richly ornamented bipartite portal from the 13th century. Its projection was originally crowned with a triangular pediment, mistakenly removed during renovation. The northern façade of the nave, facing the town, was also decorated at the top with a wide frieze with the motif of interpenetrating braid, and the windows from this side were decorated with archivolts with zoomorphic motifs. The frieze also circulates around the lower parts of the nave and chancel.
Inside the church five-bay nave is divided into a series of pointed arcades based on square pillars. The central aisle is covered with a timber flat ceiling, while the side aisles have an open roof truss.
On the south side there is a monastery, from which only the eastern wing with relics of romanesque ornamentation has been preserved. Chapel of St. Hyacinth from the western side, was formed from the transformation of the western part, the most recently built monastery wing. The eastern wing in the southern part had a basement with a vault supported by a central pillar. In the ground floor from the east there was a sacristy at the presbytery of the church, then the chapter house, and then a number of utility rooms. In the Middle Ages, the inner courtyard did not have brick cloisters, but the southern portal in the chancel seems to indicate the existence of timber cloisters.
Church of St. James and the Dominican monastery are one of the oldest brick churches in Poland and one of the most valuable national monuments. Attention is drawn primarily to the magnificent, romanesque, north portal, while its rich decoration program is a unique phenomenon in Poland. Belfry has one of the oldest bells in Poland: the smaller of 1314 and the larger of 1389, while in the chancel is the wooden tomb of Adelaide, according to the tradition the founder of the pre-dominican church. The church still has sacred functions, and the Dominicans returned to the monastery after a long break in 2001.
Kunkel R., Późnoromańskie klasztory zakonu braci mniejszych i braci kaznodziejów w Małopolsce [w:] Architektura romańska w Polsce, Gniezno 2009.
Świechowski Z., Sztuka romańska w Polsce, Warszawa 1990.
Website wikipedia.org, Kościół św. Jakuba w Sandomierzu.