Krzeszów - Former Cistercian Abbey Complex, Krzeszów
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Krzeszów - Former Cistercian Abbey Complex

Krzeszów

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The village of Krzeszów has been linked to a number of imposing monastic compounds ever since the medieval period. In 1242, Princess Anna, the widow of Henry the Pious, founded a monastery in the woodland estate of Cressebor (present-day Krzeszówek) for the Benedictine monks of Opatovice, Bohemia. However, in 1289 the Duke of Świdnica and Jawor, Bolko I the Strict, founded an abbey here for the Cistercians from Henryków. The monks arrived at their new property in 1292 and occupied the existing buildings. The abbey estate was enlarged on several occasions; in total they owned around 40 localities. Having been rebuilt after a fire in the mid-15th century, the monastery and church were ravaged by the Swedes during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Once the war had ended the monastery re-established its economic and political significance, and the abbey became the most important centre of the Counter-Reformation in Silesia. After the Fraternity of St Joseph was founded in 1669 a fraternity church and the Abbey Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary were built, as was a Calvary mound and a Loreto chapel; the cult of the figure of Christ Emmanuel also emerged during this period.

The present abbey church (1728-1735), built on the site of the earlier medieval version, is one of the finest historical monuments in Silesia. Its construction was initiated by Abbot Innocent Fritsch. The design is variously attributed to Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer or Chritoph Tausch; the building work was carried out by the master mason Anton Jentsch. The galleried hall church is cruciform in plan and aisleless, and has five bays with a row of chapels facing the nave. The interior is covered by sail vaults, with a dome above the intersection of the nave and transept. The west elevation features twin towers, which seen from a distance among hills and fields are notable for their slender and elegant form. At close range the façade demonstrates a splendid amalgamation of architecture and sculpture (1729-1731, the work of Ferdinand Maximilian Brokoff of Prague, and, after 1731, his pupil Anton Dorasil). The lavish Baroque interior includes extant components from the earlier church. The polychrome paintings by Georg Wilhelm Neunhertz which adorn the vaults allude to the attributes of Christ Emmanuel (from the prophecy of Isaiah). Most of the statues and altars are the work of Dorasil, and the paintings - Felix A. Scheffler. The main altar was designed by Brokoff; the central panel of the altarpiece, painted by Peter Brandel, depicts the Assumption. The tabernacle projects beyond the altarpiece with a throne surmounted by a crown, in the middle of which stands a mid-18th century icon of the Merciful Mother of God. The pulpit was made in 1736 by Anton Stenzel, and was decorated in 1761 by Joseph Lachel. The organ gallery houses an instrument built in 1733-1736 by Michael Engler. At the intersection of the nave and transept stand the abbey stalls, embellished with carvings and paintings (1730-1735, Brokoff and Dorasil). The mausoleum of the Świdnica branch of the Piast dynasty (1735-1747) adjoins the church building, and includes the tombs of Bolko I and Bolko II (14th century), created by joining two chapels.

The south arm of the transept connects to the Baroque abbey building, which was constructed to designs drawn up in c. 1770 by Johann Gottlieb Feller. The south wing was the first part to be raised (1774-1782). Work was resumed in 1788, under the supervision of Johann Georg Rudolph. The highlight of the neighbouring 17th-century Church of St Joseph is the Baroque polychrome painting by Michael Willman, dating from 1695. A Guest House was built nearby (in 1734), and outbuildings were erected on either side of the abbey gate. A Calvary mound (1672-1738) was created to the west of the church, and 2 km away from Krzeszów, in the village of Betlejem, a Bethlehem chapel and a summer pavilion for the abbots was built. The entire complex demonstrates not only the earthly power and wealth of the Benedictines, but also their excellent taste and ability to employ the skills of the most eminent artists of the day.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: koniec XIII - XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: plac Jana Pawa II 2, Krzeszów
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district kamiennogórski, commune Kamienna Góra
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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