The Franciscan monastery complex, Gdańsk
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The Franciscan monastery complex

Gdańsk

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The Franciscan monastery complex in Gdańsk was considered to be one of the most magnificent monasteries of this Order in Poland. Since the Reformation began, the buildings forming part of the complex housed institutions of great regional importance - the Academic Gymnasium and the museum, which was variously known as the Municipal, Pomeranian and, finally, National Museum.

The church of the Holy Trinity, which is the second-largest church in Gdańsk, features a simplicity of shape, layout and facade decoration that has come to be regarded as a hallmark of the Franciscan architecture. This austere appearance, however, was in stark contrast to the lavishly decorated, impressive gables. The interior features one of the very few surviving rood screens which can still be seen in Poland. Other notable interior fittings include the surviving items originating from both the Gothic, Mannerist and Baroque periods. The two-level medieval roof truss and the crane assembly in the garret also deserve a mention due to their great historical value.

The ground floor section of the monastery buildings feature valuable medieval interiors with Late Gothic vaulted ceilings. The redesign works performed during the 19th century, which included a substantial amount of regothicisation, constitute a fine example of both the Gothic Revival style and the monument conservation theories prevalent at the time.

The chapel of St Anne forms an example of a small, late-mediaeval ecclesiastical building; its vaulting and gable wall decorations make it one of the most magnificent structures of this kind anywhere in Poland.

The kanzelhaus (a type of house where individual apartments were accessed by means of an open deck or walkway) is an example of a half-timbered town house with brick infills and a walkway (gallery) on the first-floor level is the oldest surviving house of this type in Gdańsk and one of the very few surviving examples of this type of architecture anywhere in Poland.

History

The Franciscan Order first established itself in Gdańsk in 1419. In years 1422-1431, the members of the Order erected a small, single-nave church and the first monastery buildings. In 1481, the extension of the church began. The single-nave structure was extended upwards and converted into a chancel, to which a large, three-nave main section was added. Disaster struck in 1503 as the northern wall and some of the pillars and vaulted ceilings collapsed. The damaged sections, however, have already been reconstructed by 1514. The eastern and southern wings of the monastery were built together with the church, in years 1481-1486. After 1496, the chapel of St Anne was added, abutting the western facade of the church. The chapel was designed for use by Poles.

During the second quarter of the 16th century, following the onset of the Reformation, the monastery has fallen on evil days, with the number of resident monks dropping to three. In 1555, the Order decided to donate their monastery to the Gdańsk Municipal Council under the condition that a Latin theological academy would be located there. In 1558, a theological academy - albeit a Protestant one - opened its doors to the public at the former monastery. From 1580 onwards, it became known as the Academic Gymnasium. In 1596, the buildings were adapted as the library of the Gdańsk Municipal Council, incorporating - among many other volumes - the collection of books from the Franciscan library. The former Franciscan church of the Holy Trinity became a Lutheran temple. The rector of the gymnasium also performed the function of a preacher at the church. During the second half of the 16th century, a third, western wing was added to the former monastery, creating a compact quadrilateral structure which incorporated all of the constituent parts of the complex. In 1673, a sacristy was added to the chapel of St Anne. During the mid-17th century, a kanzelhaus (also known as the preacher’s house) was built, its ground floor containing storage facilities, while the first floor served as living quarters for the teachers of the Academic Gymnasium.

In 1807, the former monastery buildings housed a military field hospital and storage facilities; in years 1829-1844, a garrison hospital operated in this location. Later on, the sculptor Rudolf Freitag founded his workshop in the former monastery following the abandonment thereof by the military, using the building as a place to store his collection of the art of Gdańsk, paving the way for the museum that would later be established here. In 1863, the buildings were taken over by the municipal authorities and adapted as a Municipal Museum in years 1867-1872. In connection with its new function, the complex was modified and subjected to regothicisation, giving it a new appearance consistent with the tenets of the Gothic Revival style. The works in question involved the reconstruction of some of the vaulted ceilings, the upward extension of the walls, the enlargement of the second storey windows and the installation of window traceries. In addition, the walls were clad with machine-made bricks and neo-Gothic gables were erected, their style reminiscent of that used for the gables of the church.

In 1945, the buildings forming the complex suffered extensive damage. The chancel was damaged to the greatest extent as its roof caught fire, leading to the collapse of the vaulted ceilings below. The roofs and parts of the first floor of the former monastery buildings were also engulfed by flames. The nave of the church, the chapel of St Anne and the kanzelhaus were damaged to a much lesser extent. After World War II, the church of the Holy Trinity, the chapel of St Anne and the kanzelhaus once again came under the control of the Franciscan Order. The church was rebuilt in years 1947-1983. The former monastery buildings continue to be used by the museum - initially the Pomeranian Museum and later, after 1972, the National Museum. The reconstruction of the former monastery buildings lasted until 1956.

Description

The complex consists of the church of the Holy Trinity, the monastery (currently the National Museum), the chapel of St Anne and the kanzelhaus.

The complex is located in the Old Suburb district of Gdańsk, on a plot of land situated between the Św. Trójcy, Rzeźnicka, Toruńska and Okopowa streets.

The complex terminates in the church building, located in the northern part thereof. Monastery buildings adjoin the southern facade of the church; these are composed of three wings which, together with the church, create a compact quadrilateral complex of buildings.

The chapel of St Anne and the kanzelhaus adjoin the western facade of the church. Both structures abut the church with their end walls (positioned slightly askew), with the buildings themselves positioned in parallel to one another. The kanzelhaus forms part of the frontage of the św. Trójcy street. The buildings surround a rectangular courtyard, circumscribed by a wall located on its western side. A small sacristy is located in the corner between the chapel and the southern facade of the church.

The buildings forming the complex - the church and the kanzelhaus - are located directly adjacent to the św. Trójcy street in the north. The eastern wing of the monastery is preceded by a narrow strip of greenery which separates it from Rzeźnicka street; the southern and western wings of the monastery as well as the St Anne chapel are positioned adjacent to the square. The area in front of the southern and eastern wing is fenced and remains the property of the National Museum.

The monastic church of the Holy Trinity is a brick building designed in the Gothic style. The chancel is the oldest part of the building, erected in years 1481-1495 on the basis of the walls of the original church which was erected in years 1422-1431. The chancel features five bays and terminates in a straight wall with external buttresses; another notable feature is the lierne vault (stellar vault) resting on brackets (which has been reconstructed following its destruction in 1945). The body of the church, the construction of which was completed in 1514, is built on a rectangular floor plan. It features a three-nave, six-bay hall layout with buttresses which projects inwards, into the interior of the church, forming spaces for the side chapels. Octagonal pillars with edges accentuated by roll-mouldings support the profiled arcades separating the naves as well as the vaulting: diamond vaults, constructed before the accident of 1503 which led to the collapse of parts of the church, surviving in the southern section of the church, above the recesses formed between the buttresses, as well as the lierne vaults constructed in years 1503-1514. The rood screen with a pointed-arch passage positioned on its axis is situated between the nave section of the church and the chancel.

The building consists of a wider nave section and the narrower chancel, covered with gable roofs of an identical height. The nave section of the church is covered with three parallel roofs, while the chancel features a single roof. A hexagonal steeple topped with a spire (reconstructed following the extensive damage sustained in 1945) surmounts the chancel roof ridge. A half-timbered wall dormer projects out of the southern section of the roof, its original purpose having been to provide an opening through which various goods could be hoisted into the garret using a crane. A small, octagonal tower embedded into the monastery cloister adjoins the eastern wall of the nave section of the church. Staircases leading into the garret of the church are concealed within the walls; they are positioned on each corner of the nave section as well as in the corners of the end wall of the chancel.

The church features plain facades with slender pointed-arch windows. The northern and western facades feature pointed-arch portals with splayed reveals and archivolts. The decorative gables are in stark contrast to the austere walls of the church. The eastern gable of the chancel, built in years 1493-1495, features profiled pinnacles as well as windows topped with semicircular arches, both single and double (the latter being separated by mullions). During the period before 1514, the gable in question was embellished with three octagonal turrets, including two side turrets crowned with slender, hexagonal spires as well as one turret positioned on the axis of the facade, topped with a bulbous dome perched atop an openwork section. The eastern gables of the nave are adorned with profiled pinnacles and blind windows topped with ogee arches. The western facade is crowned with three interconnected, lavishly decorated openwork gables. The decorative gables - separated from the rest of the facade by a tracery frieze - are composed of elaborately profiled pinnacles and intersecting tracery bars, creating lancet, rhombus and ogee-shaped openings. Each of the pinnacles is crowned with a period wrought-iron crucifix.

The interior of the church features original Mannerist paintings dating back to the late 16th century which survive on the pillar supporting the ambo. The surviving interior fittings include: the side sections of two polyptychs (one dating from the year 1515, the other also made somewhere around that period), incorporating elements of both the Gothic and the Renaissance styles; Gothic choir stalls in the chancel, dating back to the period between 1507 and 1511, a Late Gothic ambo from 1541, with subsequent additions dating back to 1663 and to the 19th century, a Baroque choir gallery with pipe organ casing from 1703, numerous epitaph plaques as well as headstones incorporated into the floor of the church. A two-level medieval king post truss with purlins survives above the nave section of the building. The garret contains wooden windlasses with shafts, used for hoisting goods up into the garret as well as for lifting the suspended chandeliers inside the church.

The monastery was built in stages. The Gothic eastern and southern wings along with the cloisters were built in years 1481-1486; the western wing was built during the second half of the 16th century. In years 1867-1872, all the wings of the monastery were redesigned in the Gothic Revival style.

 The monastery is a brick structure consisting of three wings which, together with the church, make up a compact, quadrilateral shape. The eastern and southern wings flow seamlessly into one another, forming pronounced avant-corps which project beyond the outer boundary of the quadrilateral structure. All sections of the monastery are covered with gable roofs with dormer windows. A garth is located between the church and the monastery buildings, enclosed by cloisters from all four sides. The cloister which runs along the northern facade of the church is shorter than the others and features an additional storey. A small, hexagonal tower topped with a hexagonal tented roof is located adjacent to the cloister.

The ground floor features the original interior layout as well as Late Gothic vaulted ceilings which were constructed around 1503-1514. The eastern wing originally housed the library and a small refectory, while the grand refectory and the kitchen were located in the southern wing. The chapter house was originally located in the eastern wing. The small refectory and the library feature stellar vaults, while the grand refectory has a lierne vault. Diamond vaulting is used both inside the chapter house and the cloisters. Inside the small refectory, the vault is supported by two decagonal stone pillars from the third quarter of the 14th century, most likely originating from the castle of the Teutonic Order in Gdańsk. The main entrance into the building, the hallway and the stone staircase in the Gothic Revival style are located in the southern avant-corps. Side entrances are located in the outer facades of the eastern and western wings. The interior of the building features many surviving examples of sumptuously decorated neo-Gothic wooden doors.

The facades, clad with machine-made brick, feature a uniform architectural decor comprised of an arcaded cornice underneath the eaves as well as a frieze separating the storeys of the building, adorned with tracery and foliage motifs.  The ground floor features pointed-arch window openings with tracery and profiled mullions. The second storey windows are topped with segmental arches, while the windows in the southern avant-corps which illuminate the staircase feature tracery and decorative mullions (tracery bars). The gables - the western gable crowning the southern wing as well as the gable crowning the southern avant-corps - are reminscent of the corresponding structures adorning the church. The outer facade of the eastern wing features a Gothic Revival portal replete with sumptuous architectural decorations; it is set into a recess with numerous archivolt mouldings and features decorative tracery. Two further portals, much less lavish in design, are found in the southern avant-corps and in the outer facade of the western wing.

The chapel of St Anne is a brick building originating from the Late Gothic period. Construction is believed to have begun after 1496 and was completed during the first quarter of the 16th century. The chapel adjoins the church and sacristy from the east. It was built on a rectangular floor plan, its parallel walls being positioned slightly askew. It is a five-bay structure with a vaulted ceiling featuring elements of both the stellar and lierne vault design. A passage connects the chapel with both the church and the sacristy. The building is cuboid in shape and is covered with a steep gable roof with dormer windows. A small, half-timbered wall dormer, designed for hoisting goods into the garret, juts out of the northern section of the roof. The southern and northern facades are plain, with pointed-arch windows. The western facade contains no openings whatsoever and is adorned with pointed-arch blind windows - one larger, positioned on the axis of the facade, as well as three smaller ones on each side thereof. The gable wall is lavishly decorated and contains stylistic references to the western gable walls of the church, with a tracery frieze separating it from the rest of the facade. It is adorned with profiled pinnacles interconnected in their upper sections by a series of ogee arches. Each pinnacle is topped with a medieval wrought iron crucifix. Two neo-Gothic porches, built during the early XX century, abut the northern facade of the chapel. The structure features a medieval king post truss with purlins.

The chapel’s interior fittings originate from the Baroque period and include the main altar, dating back to the 17th century, the pulpit from 1721, the choir gallery built in years 1636-1646 and a pipe organ casing constructed in 1710.

The sacristy - built in 1673 - is a small additional structure which adjoins the southern facade of the church and the western facade of the St Anne chapel. The sacristy features a shed roof. It was built on an elongated rectangular floor plan and features a three-bay layout and a groin vault.

The kanzelhaus, also known as the preacher’s house, was built in the mid-17th century. The ground floor section of the building is made of brick, using fragments of an older, Gothic monastery wall. The first floor is a half-timbered structure with brick infills. The building is a two-storey structure covered with a gable roof with dormer windows. Its distinctive feature is the overhanging gallery facing the św. Trójcy street. The ground floor level features no windows whatsoever; a gateway topped with a basket-handle arch is positioned slightly off the axis of the building. The first floor features rectangular windows and doors leading from the walkway into individual rooms. The gable wall features a decorative timber framing pattern. The interior fittings inside the building are a modern addition.

Limited access to the historic building. The Church of Holy Trinity and the St Anne chapel are accessible during church service;

the former monastery buildings can be viewed during the opening hours of the museum.

The kanzelhaus can only be viewed from the outside.

Compiled by Beata Dygulska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 27.08.2014.

Bibliography

  • Drost W., Kunstdenkmӓler der Stadt Danzig, t. 5, Stuttgart 1972, s. 1-76.
  • Friedrich J., Gdańskie zabytki architektury do końca XVIII w., Gdańsk 1997, s. 150-159.
  • Łoziński J., Pomniki sztuki w Polsce, t. 2, cz. 1: Pomorze, Warszawa 1992, s. 398-399.
  • Sulikowski G., Kościół i klasztor franciszkanów Św. Trójcy, [w:] Śliwiński B. (red. nauk.), Encyklopedia Gdańska, Gdańsk 2012, s. 492-495.

General information

  • Type: monastery
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: św. Trójcy 1, 4, Toruńska 1 , Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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