Kołbacz - Complex of the Former Cistercian Monastery, Kołbacz
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Kołbacz - Complex of the Former Cistercian Monastery

Kołbacz

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The remains of the oldest and largest Cistercian abbey in Pomorze are located in Kołbacz, in the Gryfino district. From the 16th century onwards, the monastery played a significant role the in religious, political and economic life of the state ruled by the House of Griffins. The monastery had no equivalents on the shore of the Baltic sea, to the east from the Odra river. It could be easily compared to the most impressive Cistercian complexes in Mecklenburg and Brandenburg. It was founded by Warcisław II Świętoborzyc, the castellan of Szczecin, in 1173. A year later, the abbot of Reinhold came from the Danish abbey of Esrom (a filial abbey of the monastery in Clairvaux) to Kołbacz, most likely accompanied by a convent.

The Kołbacz convent gave rise to Cistercian assemblies in Oliwa (1186), Bierzwnik (1286-1294) and Mironice (1300-1357). The monastery complex occupies the central part of the settlement, on both sides of a road splitting the historic complex into the monastic section (consisting of a church, the house of lay brothers and the house of the abbot) and the farm (with a Gothic sheepfold [barn] with buttresses, a manor house, the building of the management and other structures of the later state domain). Another surviving structure is the fortified tower - a relic of the system of fortifications.

The monastery church, originally under the invocation of Blessed Virgin Mary (currently the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) is one of the most significant 13th-century edifices on the Baltic coast. At the same time, it is the earliest church in the territory of Western Pomorze that was built exclusively of brick. For the first time in the region, a Gothic system of abutments with flying buttresses concealed beneath the roofs of the aisles was applied during the construction of this very building. The first, Romanesque phase of construction included the work performed in years 1210-1247 and was conducted in cooperation with Danish workshops. The subsequent stages of construction, until the completion thereof in the mid-14th century, were carried out by builders from Brandenburg. The church has a form of a transept basilica with no tower, its façade modelled on the Lehnin church in Brandenburg. The lowest storey of the façade is accentuated by an arcade frieze, with three giant pointed-arch blind windows positioned directly above, the middle one originally designed as a window and subsequently bricked up; the entire structure is crowned with a triangular gable-end wall with a rose window adorned with brick tracery.

In the 14th century, the monastery, controlling several dozen villages, was the wealthiest in all of Pomerania and retained the dominant position in the region throughout almost the entire period of existence of the duchy of Szczecin. In the 15th century, the Cistercian economy fell into decline, to which the attacks of the Hussites and Brandenburg armies contributed. Finally, as a result of popularisation of Lutheranism and the progressing relaxation of monastic discipline, the monks from Kołbacz decided to embrace the Reformation with hardly any protest, while their land was taken over by Barnim XI, the duke of Szczecin, who converted the abbey into a mansion for himself, declaring it the seat of the dukes of Szczecin.

After the secularisation of the abbey in 1535, the church in Kołbacz was divided into a sacred and a utility part, the main nave being converted into a granary. The preserved timber structure of the granary inside the body of the Gothic temple has no equivalent elsewhere and is most certainly the oldest structure of this type surviving in the region. After the thirty-year war in 1653, the ruined property was acquired by the Brandenburg margraves. Soon afterwards, a fire caused by a lightning strike engulfed the roof along with the steeple, also destroying the ceilings above the part of the church that was used for storage purposes. The aisles and monastery cloisters were also damaged.

During the period from the beginning of the 18th century until the 20th century, the medieval buildings of the former monastery were being systematically dismantled After the World War II, for example, the property was taken over by a State Agricultural Holding (PGR). In 1968, the transformation of Kołbacz into the so-called agro-town commenced, which resulted in the demolition of most of the existing buildings and in the establishment of a park for the local residents on the spot where the cemetery was once located. The site of the medieval claustrum was not spared either, as a primary school was erected there. It was only during the 1970s and the 1980s that the renovation of the Gothic sheepfold (barn) was carried out and that the wing once occupied by lay brothers and the house of the abbot were reconstructed. From the beginning of the 21st century, renovation and conservation works are underway inside the church.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: pocz. XIII - XIX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Wracisława 8B, Kołbacz
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district gryfiński, commune Stare Czarnowo
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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