The abbey was situated on the limestone Monastery Hill, descending on the western side with vertical, rocky slopes towards the Vistula River. Also from the south and east the slopes were high, which made the only convenient access road possible from the north. There was a river crossing near the monastery, but it was important primarily for local transport.
The oldest stone sacral building on Tyniec Hill, dating from the 60-70s of the 11th century, was to be a rectangular chapel (located on the site of the later sacristy), with dimensions of about 6.5 x 9 meters and a height of about 8 meters. After 1260, the chapel, destroyed during the Mongol invasion, was replaced with a new one, on the plan of an elongated rectangle closed from the east with an apse. It had dimensions of 3.60 x 12 meters with three square bays separated by arch bands, and a cross vault supported by half-columns. A portal embedded in the southern wall led to the chapel.
The Romanesque church from the times of Kazimierz the Restorer was built in the opus emplectum technique of sandstone cubes (reinforced in the corners with larger blocks), a three-aisle basilica without a transept, probably with two or possibly one tower on the west. From the east, the building was probably closed with three apses, one at the end of each aisle. The middle one was preceded by a short presbytery four-sided bay. The form of the church in the form of a transept-free basilica was common in Romanesque architecture, with the Benedictine abbeys closest to the Tyniec church being located in the settlements of Hronsky Beńadik, Diakovce, Somogyvar and Kapornakp. Tyniec also showed great architectural ties with the Wawel church of St. Geron (stonework, a cord motif on the half-columns and vaults in the aisles). The Tyniec church was 24.1 meters long and 12.1 meters wide. The aisles were separated from each other by pillars, in the nave with square one with half-columns from the side of the aisles and cross one in the western bay. There was an avant-corps about 1 meter long on the extension of the nave in the west facade. The eastern choir was conch-vaulted (apses) and barrel-vaulted (presbytery), the central nave was covered with a ceiling or an open roof truss, while the aisles had a cross vault with arch bands. The tripartite western part included a vestibule open with arcades towards the aisles. In the central part of the façade, flanked by two towers, there was a gallery.
In the second half of the thirteenth century, or at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the church was rebuilt in the early Gothic style. It was partially added to the northern wall of the Romanesque basilica with the use of limestone and sandstone blocks. After 1452, the church was rebuilt in the Gothic style into a hall structure with an elongated, three-side ended chancel and a chapel in the extension of the southern aisle and a square tower in the north-west part.
From the south, the church was adjoined by Romanesque monastery buildings surrounding the courtyard, 14 meters long sides with originally wooden cloisters. In the oldest phase, only the building on the south side, measuring 8.6 x 19.8 meters, functioned. It was made of limestone with which the sandstone window openings and the portal (both preserved in the western wall). The building had two floors: probably there was a refectory at the bottom, and a dormitory at the top. The refectory floor was slightly more than half a meter lower than the level of the cloister and less than two meters below the oratory (church) floor, which was located at the opposite end of the monastery complex, surrounded by a wooden fence. What’s more, in the Gothic period, the interior of the refectory was deepened by about 1.5 meters, using a secondary Romanesque cube. The cellar of unknown function thus obtained was plastered and whitewashed.
With time, a Romanesque stone west wing also appeared (probably with the function of a cellarium), added with the shorter side to the church. In its southern part there was a vaulted channel 4.6 meters long and less than a meter high, closed in a semicircle from the south. It was made of limestone, covered with a barrel vault, and in both of its gable walls there were rectangular openings framed with sandstone. The continuation of the northern opening was a brick canal located in the thickness of the Romanesque wall. The whole could function as a sewage system or be a kind of rainwater cistern. Other buildings, probably wooden, could have been located along the fence. The courtyard in the center was transformed into cloisters over time. The Romanesque cloisters were probably not fully built due to the invasions, but the found relics may indicate that it was planned to put openings to the inner patio with arcades based on double columns.
Rebuilt after being destroyed by the Mongols in 1260, the monastery was surrounded by a 1.5-meter-thick sandstone wall. The entire complex was then a square plan with a side of 40 meters, and there was a gate located in the south-west corner. The southern wing with the refectory and kitchen still functioned, the west wing with the cellarium, over time also the stone buildings of the eastern wing were formed, in which the sacristy by the church, chapter house and a new dormitory were placed. The extension of the complex on the south side, where originally there were freestanding wooden auxiliary buildings, created another three-wing complex with an internal, second patio. In its south-west part there was a library.
The entrance to the monastery was located on the north-west side. Due to its key location, a stronghold was erected there, and then a 14th-century castle, which was more of a gatehouse and a fortified abbot’s residence with guest rooms for visitors to the abbey, than a typical castle with a permanent crew. It was probably founded on a plan similar to a triangle, with one tower over the Vistula embankment and two residential wings. The castle and monastery buildings of the abbey were surrounded by thick walls, equipped with a walkway for guards and battlement.
Today in the Tyniec monastery there are both Romanesque and Gothic and unfortunately Baroque elements. From the earliest period, the walls of the church have preserved up to about 5 meters high, the wall between the temple and the cloisters with the Romanesque portal and the walls of the refectory. The cloisters come from the 15th century, with the exception of the southern arm, which was demolished in the 19th century and then reconstructed. The presbytery of the church now also has Gothic forms, as are the walls in the southern and western parts of the monastic complex. The abbey still performs religious functions, but its part is open to the public. Practical information for tourists can be found on the abbey website here.
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