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Collegiate church of St Martin of Tours - Zabytek.pl

Collegiate church of St Martin of Tours

church Opatów

Opatów, Stefana "Grota" Roweckiego 8

woj. świętokrzyskie, pow. opatowski, gm. Opatów - miasto

The collegiate church is one of the most valuable monuments of the Romanesque architecture in Poland and an architectural example of the Benedictine reform.

The outstanding works of art collected in the church are associated with the Szydłowieckis’ sponsorship, among them the tombstones of great artistic value. The interior is decorated the great panoramic paintings of famous Polish military victories.


The Romanesque church was built in the 3rd quarter of the 12th century but the founders are unknown. According to Jan Długosz, the founders were the Order of the Knights Templar; others attributed the construction to Cistercians and their missionary campaign in Ruthenia or regarded Opatów as a seat of the Benedictine hermits or a gift of some local prince to Canons Regular. The most popular view is that the church was erected for Canons Regular by the duke of Kraków and Sandomierz, Casimir II the Just. In the beginning of the 13th century, the temple was slightly altered, perhaps with the participation of the Cistercian masters operating in the Małopolska region. Somewhere in the 14th century, the church probably collapsed along with the north tower; the reconstruction lasted at least until the end of the medieval period. In the 2nd half of the 15th century, a number of outbuildings was added on the north side, and the former chapter house was rebuilt. As a result of the unexpected Tatar invasion in September 1502, the town burned down together with the collegiate church, which had already become a parish. The reconstruction began with the installation of late-Gothic net vaults. Damaged wall fragments were filled in, including the gable walls of the transept and presbytery. The work accelerated after 1514 years, when the bishops of Lubusz, the owners of Opatów, sold the town and their local assets to Grand Chancellor of the Crown Krzysztof Szydłowiecki, a great diplomat and patron of art. The great benefactors of the collegiate church were the Rev. Andrzej Tarło of the Topór coat of arms (17th century) and the Rev. Maciej Flaszyński (18th century) who sponsored the main altar, probably the work of Tomasz Hutter, and richly decorated benches and side altars made by Johann Georg Lehner of Opava, a new choir by the famous Opava organ-maker Wacław Thiel and a painted decoration of the presbytery and transept vaults, dedicated to St Martin and featuring the great Polish battles (completed in the 3rd quarter of the 18th century).


The collegiate church complex sits east of Opatów’s market square. The collegiate is a stone, three-nave building with a transept, presbytery and the transept arms closed with apses, and a two-tower façade, with one of the towers heightened after destruction and plastered. Between the towers, there is the main entrance with visible traces of transformations. The entrance goes back to about the mid-14th century; it features the original middle arcade together with a deeper, profiled, pointed-arch Gothic portal. Above, there are visible remnants of the Romanesque frieze revealing fantastic animals and quatrefoils. The side façades are dominated by outbuildings of the 15th and 16th century. The northern façade has a portal leading to the vestibule with a bas-relief plant decoration and the coats of arms of the Odrowąż family of Szydłów and the coat of arms of Łabędź of the chancellor’s mother, Zofia of Goździków and Pleszów, embedded probably around 1514-1515. The arms of the transept are made of the Romanesque dimension stone; they were extended up with gables in the 1st half of the 16th century; the Romanesque apses can be found to the east. The presbytery, richly ornamented with arcade frieze supported on thin pilaster strips, also has gables added in the early 16th century, decorated with pinnacles featuring different coats of arms. The three-nave basilica-like interior is divided by quadrangular pillars, supporting the aisle arcades and resting on imposts, decorated with engraved Romanesque ornamental and plant motifs. The richly embellished north portal comes from the early 13th century. It has pairs of columns with the capitals decorated with plant ornaments. The late Gothic nave is covered with ribbed vault in the so-called net layout, with preserved fragments of painted decoration by Matias de Coczko completed in 1547. The history of the Szydłowieckis also goes with a number of tombstones, including the tomb of the chancellor, made after his death in 1532 with the famous multi-figure scene below, the so-called Opatów Lament. Beside, there are Poland-first chancellor’s children’s tombs: Zygmunt (d. 1527) and Ludwik Mikołaj (d. 1525). In the 18th century, an illusionistic painting decoration was added, including some scenes featuring the church patron, St Martin of Tours, and showing the great victories of the Polish army: the Battle of Psie Pole of 1109, the battle of Grunwald of 15 July 1410 against the Teutonic Knights, and the scenes associated with the Battle of Vienna involving the relief force led by King Jan III Sobieski in September 1683. A stone belfry of the 19th century can be seen in the south-east corner of the complex, accessible by a gate from the south.

The site is accessible; sightseeing upon the consent of the parish priest.

Compiled by Jerzy Zub, 08.12.2014.


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Category: church

Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records

Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_26_ZE.25361, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_26_ZE.761