Carmelite monastery complex, Obory
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Carmelite monastery complex



The monastery complex is one of the largest of its kind in the Golub-Dobrzyń region. Its distinguishing feature is its rather restrained Late Baroque architecture which retains a remarkable degree of uniformity, having changed little despite the passage of time. The monastery remains an important sanctuary; having initially only enjoyed a local standing, it gradually rose to a nationwide importance throughout the ages.


The monastery was established in 1605 at the initiative of Łukasz Rudzowski and his wife Anna Rudzowska née Galemska, both of whom also provided the necessary funds. The inhabitants of the monastery were Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, originating from the monastic complex in Bydgoszcz. Initially, the monastery consisted of a group of wooden buildings, erected on a hill known locally as the Motte; these structures, however, were subsequently lost to the blaze in 1612. In years 1617-18, another wooden place of worship was constructed near the original site, albeit at a slightly lower elevation. The construction of the masonry church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary commenced in 1642. The church was consecrated in 1649, by which time its nave had already been completed. The original, wooden chancel was subsequently demolished and replaced with a brick one in 1694. The chapel of Divine Providence, funded by Juliusz Dziewanowski, was added to the main body of the church in 1740. The sacristy with an upper gallery and the tower on the north-western side of the nave were added in 1747 and in the years 1748-49 respectively.

The original monastery building, erected at the same time as the first church, i.e. somewhere around the year 1605, was lost to the blaze in 1636. The reconstruction of the monastery - this time as a brick structure - commenced in 1647. The monastery was subsequently extended somewhere around the year 1718. In years 1741-53, the edifice attained its current form. In 1756, the church and monastery complex was supplemented through the addition of the southern perimeter wall with a gate which bore the hallmarks of the Baroque style. In 1821, the monastery was partially gutted by fire; it was reconstructed four years later.

At the top of the hill, where the original monastery had once stood, the chapel of the Holy Cross was erected in the 18th century.

Following the failed January Uprising, the monastery was converted into a place of detentions for priests and clerics pursuant to the decree (ukase) of 1864. Towards the end of the 19th century, an elementary school and a novitiate were both functioning alongside the monastery. In 1904, the monastery faced the threat of dissolution, with only the intense efforts of the erstwhile prior, Dionizy Mierzwicki, leading to the Imperial decree being annulled in the end. From October 1939 to February 1940, the monastery served as the transitional camp for the clergy from the Rypin deanery as well as part of the Chełmno diocese. Following the closure of the camp, the monastery buildings served as a hospital for tuberculosis patients. In February 1945, the Carmelite monks reclaimed the complex. A new parish was established in Obory in 1971.

The church is home to the Pietà sculpture of the Virgin Mary of Obory, believed to possess miraculous qualities; the sculpture, dating back to the late 14th/early 15th century, was originally brought here by the Carmelite monks from Bydgoszcz. Most of the fixtures and fittings of the church date back to ca. 1747.


The monastery complex stands on a hill with a steep northern slope. The stream flowing into the pond in the southern-western part of the site flows at the northern and western foot of the hill. The gentle southern slope is occupied by large expanses of purpose-designed greenery among which lie the Stations of the Cross which are graced by larger-than-life figural sculptures. In the eastern part of the site lies the path leading from the local road to the monastery complex itself and separating the complex from the hill summit positioned towards the east, known locally as the Motte or the Calvary. Behind the summit lies the cemetery and the tomb chapels of the Borzewski, Engeström and Barthel families. East of the cemetery lies another burial ground, maintained by the local parish.

The monastery buildings were designed on a roughly square plan, positioned diagonally towards the east-west and north-south axes and surrounding an internal courtyard. The monastic complex features basements underneath parts of its structure; the buildings themselves are all covered with gable roofs. The dominant feature of the complex is the tower which stands between the front façade of the church and the monastery. The church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, positioned on the north-east - south-west axis, features vaulted crypts underneath parts of its structure. The chancel, designed on a rectangular floor plan, is adjoined by a roughly square sacristy to the north-west. The chancel and the wider, rectangular nave are separated by a rood arch. The interior of the nave is a single, open space. A chapel designed on a square floor plan and accessible from the main body through a wide, arched aperture adjoins the south-eastern side of the nave. The church and the monastery wing are linked together by the tower integrated with the monastery building. At the heart of the complex lies the inner courtyard, with the church positioned to the south-east while the monastery wings are situated on the south-western and the north-eastern sides of the yard. The interiors of the monastery follow a one-and-a-half-bay layout, with the hallway positioned on the inner side of the structure, its windows overlooking the garth. On the north-eastern side of the courtyard there is a passage topped with a bell arch, above which spans the hallway connecting the monastery wing and the gallery above the sacristy. The north-eastern wing of the monastery is adjoined by a building designed on a roughly L-shaped plan.

The front façade of the church follows a single-axial layout; it is partitioned with two pairs of simplified pilasters supporting the cornice separating the gable from the rest of the façade. The entrance door, topped with a segmental arch, is positioned on the middle axis of the front façade of the church. Above the entrance there is a large window with stepped reveals, topped with a round arch. The doorway leading into the church is flanked with segment-headed niches. The gable features a curvilinear coping partitioned with a pair of pilasters which flank a small central window; at the very top, the gable is crowned with a convexo-concave pediment. The side façades as well as the chancel feature a crowning cornice as well as a plain frieze positioned directly underneath. The windows all feature splayed reveals and are topped with round arches. The chapel features a pyramid roof surmounted by an octagonal lantern with a bulbous cupola on top. The corners of the chapel are accentuated with simplified pilasters. The south-eastern façade features a segment-headed blind window, while the side façades are punctuated with windows with stepped reveals.

The chancel features a barrel vault with lunettes, with a faux barrel vault used for the interior of the nave. The chapel and the sacristy feature vaulted ceilings of the double barrel type. Notable fixtures and fittings of the church include the Baroque main altarpiece with ambulatory as well as four side altarpieces designed in the Baroque and Rococo styles. The organ gallery inside the nave dates back to the second half of the 18th century and features a convexo-concave parapet, behind which stands the ornate pipe organ casing. Other fittings which deserve a mention at this stage include the 18th-century confessionals, pulpit and choir stalls. The crypts beneath the church serve as exhibition space, with the current display exploring the tragic fate of the martyred clerics who were detained at the transitional camp which had once existed here. The tomb of Wincenty Kruszewski is located beneath the chapel of Divine Providence.

The front façade of the monastery is flush with the church façade; it follows a six-axial layout and features a tall, pronounced socle at the bottom. The entrance gate topped with a round arch is positioned on the first axis of the façade (counting from the south-east); it is adorned with a profiled surround with a faux keystone. Rectangular windows are positioned both above the gate and on the remaining axes of the façade. The spaces between the windows are occupied by pairs of giant order pilasters at the ground floor and first floor level; at the second floor level, these carry on in the form of dual pilasters (narrower pilasters superimposed on wider ones), supporting the crowning cornice above. A two-storey tower, designed on a square plan, rises above the first axis of the front façade of the monastery (counting from the south-east). The individual storeys of the tower are separated by a profiled cornice. The lower storey of the tower is adorned with a rectangular panel incorporating a single window opening, likewise rectangular in shape. The second-storey façades all follow virtually the same design, with corner pilasters supporting a mitred entablature with a bell arch in the middle. The space beneath each arch is occupied by a tower clock. Directly underneath each clock face there is a tall window topped with a round arch, framed with a surround with a faux keystone. The tower cupola is a bulbous, three-tier design with an arcaded belfry section in the middle. At the ground floor level, the walls of the monastery facing the garth are punctuated by an alternating arrangement of splayed, segment-headed blind windows and niches incorporating window openings. A similar arrangement of rectangular niches and windows can also be seen on the upper storeys of the north-eastern wing.

The hallways running alongside the garth are graced by vaulted ceilings of the barrel type, supported by structural arches. Other ground floor and first floor rooms feature barrel vaults with lunettes as well as double barrel vaults.

Limited access to the historic building. The complex may be viewed from the outside. Interiors of the church can be explored before and after church service or other religious ceremonies. Organised group of pilgrims may visit the monastery upon prior appointment. Within the walls of the monastery itself, visitors may take advantage of the guest accommodation at the Pilgrim’s House (50 beds in total) as well as two eateries.

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 9: Powiat lipnowski, T. Chrzanowski, M. Kornecki (eds.), Warsaw 1969, pp. 36-45.
  • Krajewski M., Sanktuarium Maryjne w Oborach. Zarys dziejów, architektury i kultu, Obory 1983.

General information

  • Type: monastery
  • Chronology: 1605 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Obory
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district golubsko-dobrzyński, commune Zbójno
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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