Franciscan monastery complex, Nieszawa
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Franciscan monastery complex



The layout and the design of the monastic complex in Nieszawa appear to have been inspired by the Franciscan monastery in Włocławek. A question which is yet to be resolved through architectural research is the age of the chancel, the polygonal form of which may either be the result of the adaptation of surviving fragments of a medieval church, or of a deliberate design decision to incorporate certain motifs reminiscent of the Franciscan church in Włocławek - the centre of the diocese - which resulted in the structure taking on an archaic appearance.


The Franciscan monks have taken a foothold in the Kuyavia region relatively early, their first outpost being established in 1238 in the city of Inowrocław. The Nieszawa monastery was founded somewhere around the year 1426. As the town itself was relocated, the friars have moved too, erecting their new brick and wood monastery buildings and the accompanying church from 1462 onwards. In 1611, at the initiative of Wawrzyniec Śmiałek - one of the city councillors - and his wife, the construction of a brick church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross began, with the remnants of the chancel belonging to an even earlier place of worship being incorporated into the new structure. It is also possible that the chapel of St Francis was con-structed on the southern side of the main body of the church during the same period and at the initiative of the very same benefactors. The first stage of construction of the monastery took place in years 1635-1666, with two individuals - Wojciech Pedynek, a local burgher, and Hieronim Boryszewski, a guardian at the Franciscan Order - contributing the funds which made the entire project possible. The church was subsequently extended in 1690 through the addition of the chapel of St Anthony, erected for the funds provided by Adam Trzebu-chowski.

In 1729, both the church and the monastery were partially consumed by fire. The reconstruc-tion of the church was conducted in several stages, with the first stage being completed in 1735. The main body was finally reconstructed in 1763, owing to the efforts of Michał Bie-niecki, the guardian of the monastery. The silhouette of the church has been altered slightly through the introduction of a steeple which housed a pair of bells. Lamentably, both the church and the monastery were lost to the blaze in 1841. The only surviving sections of the complex were the chancel, a pair of chapels as well as the ground-floor hallway. The recon-struction of the complex was completed in 1843, with the monastery being extended south-wards in 1849. Following the dissolution of monasteries in the Kingdom of Poland in 1864, the monastery was gradually falling into disrepair. After 1870, the former monastery was con-verted into an elementary school with accommodation for the teaching staff, which most like-ly entailed a partial remodelling of its interiors. A small part of the monastery and the church remained under the administration of the priests from the local diocese. The Franciscan monks made a return to Nieszawa in 1919 and remained there until 1973, with the exception of the period between 1930 and 1937. Later on, the complex was leased out to the diocese, which adapted the former monastery to serve as the House of Retreat of St Maximilian Kolbe. To-day, the monastery is home to the Krzywda and Bieńko Foundation. Reverend Maximilian Maria Kolbe is known to have resided at the monastery between May 4 and November 3, 1921, while Czesław Klimuszko, the famous herbalist, stayed here in the years 1958-61.


The complex is situated in the southern part of town, on an irregular plot of land surrounded by the Kościuszki, Klasztorna and św. Maksymiliana M. Kolbego streets. The ensemble of buildings is situated in the eastern part of the lot, at the edge of a low fluvial terrace. The slope and the triangular yard preceding the entrance to the monastery site are overgrown with old trees. On the eastern side of the yard, a group of former Franciscan farm buildings and the customs chamber are located, standing along Trzeciego Maja street.

The overall silhouette of the church was clearly inspired by the architecture of the Gothic peri-od. The design of its detailing, however, bears the hallmarks of a simplified variety of the Ba-roque style incorporating some evident Classical influences, with the overall appearance of the structure being the result of numerous alterations. The western façade of the monastery is de-prived of any features pointing towards a particular architectural style.

A modern fence made of simple, metal bars spanning the spaces between brick posts runs along the eastern boundary of the site. In the middle of the elevated landform on which the monastery stands, there is a Gothic Revival-influenced gate with a single passage and a pair of pointed-arch apertures in its upper section, surmounted by a stylised, pinnacled gable. A flight of steps leading up the slope of the fluvial terrace can be seen in front of the gate.

The church, oriented towards the east and designed on a rectangular floor plan, is located in the northern section of the site; the chancel, narrower than the main body of the church, fea-tures a polygonal end section. The main body of the church is covered with a gable roof, while the chancel features a multi-faceted roof. The main body is flanked by a pair of chapels de-signed on a roughly square floor plan, positioned on the northern and southern sides of the structure and covered with three-sided roofs. The southern chapel is graced by a roof lantern. The walls of the chancel as well as the corners of the main body are reinforced with buttresses. The gable-end façade of the monastery, designed on an elongated rectangular floor plan, ad-joins the southern wall of the chancel. The monastery is a two-storey structure, topped with a gable roof. The eastern façade, following a nine-axial layout, is capped with a pronounced crowning cornice. A Baroque portal with simplified decorations is positioned on the third northernmost axis.

On the northern side of the church lies the yard, adorned with modern, purpose-designed plantings. On the western side of the monastery there is the former utility yard, separated by a wall from the churchyard to the north. Today, the former yard has been transformed into a decorative garden, its western part merging with the former monastic garden, which has been redesigned in the modern times. The garden to the west is separated by a line of yews from the road cutting across the site, running along the north-south axis. On the other side of the road lies an expansive lawn with a pond in its northern section, surrounded by a yew hedge running along the edge of the site.

Limited access to the historic site. The church is undergoing renovation works. The interiors can be explored immediately before and after the Sunday church service. Parts of the monas-tery serving as the hotel maintained by the Krzywda and Bieńko Foundation are likewise open to visitors.

compiled by Piotr Dąbrowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Toruń, 14-12-2014.


  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, vol. 11, Województwo bydgoskie, issue 1: Powiat ale-ksandrowski, T. Chrzanowski, M. Kornecki (eds.), Warsaw 1969, pp. 18-19.
  • Rozynkowski W, Z dziejów kościelnych Nieszawy, [in:] Dzieje Nieszawy, vol. 1: Do roku 1945, Toruń, 2004, pp. 259-322.
  • Szteinke A., Klasztory franciszkańskie na Kujawach wschodnich i w ziemi dobrzyńskiej od XVI do XIX wieku. “Zapiski Kujawsko-Dobrzyńskie”. 22, pp. 49-74, 2007

General information

  • Type: public building
  • Chronology: 1843 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: 3 maja 29, Nieszawa
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district aleksandrowski, commune Nieszawa
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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