The church of St Thomas and the monastery of the Observant Franciscan friars, currently known as the parish church of St Nicholas, Łabiszyn
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The church of St Thomas and the monastery of the Observant Franciscan friars, currently known as the parish church of St Nicholas

Łabiszyn

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The church and monastery in Łabiszyn along with their surroundings form an example of a small-town ecclesiastical complex dating back to the Baroque era.

History

During the reign of King Sigismund III Vasa, as the Protestant influences continued to grow all across the country, the decision was taken to invite the Observant Friars (a conservative branch of the Bernardine Order) to take up residence in Poland. The complex in Łabiszyn was the seventh Observant monastery to be established in the Polish territories, with the construction works commencing in 1627. The establishment of the monastery was made possible by the efforts of the owner of parts of the great landed estate (latifundium) around the town of Łabiszyn, Jan Opaliński - the castellan of Kalisz and alderman (starosta) of Inowrocław. The site of the former Calvinist church from 1594, which was in a state of utter ruin at the time, was chosen for the construction of the new, wooden monastery. The construction of a church for the friars began in 1627 and ended three years later, when the church was consecrated on April 23, 1630. The patron saints of the monastery itself were St Thomas, St Francis, the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Saints. Little more is known today about the monastery and the accompanying church, except that they were most likely both wooden structures. In March 1687, a devastating fire swept across the town of Łabiszyn, destroying the monastery and the church in the process. The reconstruction was only made possible by the funds donated by Paweł Gembicki and his wife, Eleonora Maniewska. Researchers believe that the design for the new church was created by the Italian-born architect Piotr Fontana. The plans for the Baroque church provided for the construction of underground crypts where both the monks and the benefactors of the monastery would be buried. The construction of the church began in 1688.

Yet not long after that, yet another disaster struck the town, as part of the newly erected monastery was lost to the blaze in 1720. The generous donations made by the benefactor of the monastery - Dorota Gembicka née Grot - allowed the reconstruction efforts to proceed without delay. The works themselves are believed to have been overseen by the official architect of the Observant Friars - Mateusz Osiecki. The works were completed somewhere around the year 1731.

In 1818, as the dissolution of the monasteries took effect, the monastic complex was taken over by the Prussian authorities. Thanks to the initiative of the Skórzewski family, in 1833, an authorisation was obtained to use the former church of the Observant Friars as a parish church. It is believed that it was at that point that the church was renamed as the church of St Nicholas.

In 1911, the former monastic church was extended eastwards at the initiative of Witold Skórzewski, with the Poznań-based architect Roger Sławski being responsible for the redesign. The chancel received one additional bay which was adjoined by a Rococo Revival chapel, while a new patrons’ gallery for the benefactors of the church now stood on the southern side of the chancel.

The monastery has been destroyed during World War II. It was later rebuilt in 1948. The painted decorations on the ceiling of the church, created by the Poznań-based painter Stefan Derbich, dates back to the 1960s. The church underwent restoration works in both 1980 and 1996. In the course of earthworks performed on the site of the monastery, the foundations of its northern wing have been discovered, hidden out of sight as that particular wing has never been rebuilt after the great fire of 1720. In 2009, archaeological surveys were carried out inside the crypts, resulting in all the sarcophagi being moved to three chambers: the “Crypt of the Counts Skórzewski”, the “Friars’ Crypt” and the “Administrators’ Crypt”.

Description

The former monastic complex of the Observant Friars is situated on a hill, in the suburbs of Łabiszyn, on the right bank of the Noteć river. It consists of the church, designed in a mixture of Baroque and Rococo Revival styles, as well as of the monastery, consisting of three distinct wings and adjoining the northern side of the church. The church and the monastery form a compact, Late Baroque complex towering above the eastern part of the town.

A free-standing bell tower is located in front of the church. The church itself does not feature a tower; it is a single-nave structure oriented towards the east, its chancel lower and narrower than the nave. The front (western) façade is divided into two distinct storeys: the wider lower section and the slightly convex upper portion. Each of the sections is partitioned with symmetrically arranged pilasters, with four Tuscan pilasters being present on the lower level, while the upper storey features a pair of Corinthian pilasters. Wooden statues of St Joseph and St Anthony grace the niches positioned on the lower level, between the outermost and the middle pilasters. The main entrance portal, positioned on the middle axis of the lower level, is flanked by a pair of diagonally positioned pilasters supporting an entablature and a split, segmental pediment. Above the portal there is a window with splayed reveals, with the upper section of the façade featuring a circular clock dial and a lavishly designed, convexo-concave gable. The southern façade was partitioned with pairs of pilasters flanking windows topped with basket-handle arches. The eastern chancel façade features restrained decorative framing with a window in the middle. A coat of arms of the Skórzewski noble family adorns the side wall of the patrons’ gallery. The northern chapel, added in 1911, is accessible through a decorative portal topped with a split pediment.

The interior walls of the church are partitioned by paired Tuscan pilasters. Inside the nave, these pilasters serve as support for the pronounced, mitred cornice above. The nave and the chancel both feature a vaulted ceiling of the barrel type, with lunettes. Lavish plasterwork decorations have been preserved inside the Rococo Revival chapel. The chancel houses the Baroque Revival main altarpiece incorporating the image of St Nicholas, painted by Władysław Drapiewski in 1930. In 2009, a number of crypts have been discovered underneath the floor, one situated beneath the chancel, one under the nave and one beneath the patrons’ gallery.

The Late Baroque monastery currently consists of two wings - the western and the eastern one - connected by means of a narrow cloister. The front (western) façade of the monastery is receded vis-à-vis the façade of the church. An entrance gate had originally been positioned on the outermost axis of the monastery, right next to the church; this section of the building has been substantially modified since then, however, with the gate being replaced by a window. The main entrance portal is adorned by a split pediment with an undulating silhouette. The rear façade features a north-western avant-corps which is all that remains today of the now-vanished northern wing. Inside the monastery, a painting depicting its benefactor, Dorota Gembicka née Grot, takes pride of place on one of the walls, with the woman’s features having been copied from her coffin portrait.

A statue of John of Nepomuk from the mid-18th century is positioned ahead of the front façade of the church.

The church may be explored before or after church service. The monastery can be viewed from the outside only.

compiled by Agnieszka Wysocka, Historical Monument and National Heritage Documentation and Popularisation Department of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Cultural Centre in Bydgoszcz, 26-11-2014 - 8-11-2014.

Bibliography

  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. XI: Województwo bydgoskie, issue 14: Szubin i okolice, Chrzanowski T. and Kornecki M. (eds.), Warsaw 1977, pp. 30-32
  • Dąbkowska M., Architektura kościoła Reformatów w Łabiszynie na przestrzeni XVII i XVIII wieku, “Materiały do dziejów kultury i sztuki Bydgoszczy i regionu”, no. 13, 2008, pp. 153-161
  • Drozd A., Zajączkowska T., Architektura kościoła Reformatów w Łabiszynie na przestrzeni XVII i XVIII wieku, “Materiały do dziejów kultury i sztuki Bydgoszczy i regionu”, no. 15, 2010, pp. 85-94

General information

  • Type: monastery
  • Chronology: 1688-1698 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Barcińska 5, Łabiszyn
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district żniński, commune Łabiszyn - obszar wiejski
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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