The former Benedictine abbey with elements of a castle of Dukes of Mazovia, Płock
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The former Benedictine abbey with elements of a castle of Dukes of Mazovia

Płock

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A complex of buildings forming the Benedictine abbey and the castle of Dukes of Mazovia represents a valuable historical source when learning about the beginnings of the Polish state. What deserves particular attention is probably the oldest castle wall made of stone blocks in Poland, dating back to the 11th century, remains of the Romanesque sacred architecture and examples of secular Gothic architecture.

History

Already in the 10th century the first settlement existed on the Tumskie Hill and in the second part of that century a wooden defensive stronghold was established there. The oldest relics include the remains of the early medieval pagan sacrificial altar (10th-11th century) and a three-concha castle chapel of Saint Adalbert (an outline on the castle yard). After 1034 the chapel was expanded for Benedictines who were brought to Płock. Historians are considering several different hypotheses concerning the monastery’s functions, however, this issue has not been resolved yet. All we know is that the friars built another rotund-shaped chapel of Saint Lawrence.

From the 14th century onwards a brick defensive castle, erected as a result of the massive construction rush during the rule of Casimir the Great, was located here. The remnants of the castle of Dukes of Mazovia include two towers that have survived to our times: Noble (Tall) and Clock Towers as well as fragments of castle walls. The Clock Tower was erected around 1360 during the construction of the castle. From the late 18th century it has functioned as a cathedral bell tower. The Noble Tower was significantly lowered in 1796, since it posed the risk of collapse. It served as a prison for the nobility - thus its name.

In the 16th century a part of the castle collapsed due to the landslide of the buttress to the Vistula river. After the reconstruction, the castle was divided between the secular and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The residence of dukes was relocated to a smaller, southern part of the complex, while the rest of the building became property of the Benedictines in 1538.

In the early 17th century the abbot Stanisław Starczewski carried out a thorough renovation of the church and monastery buildings. The St Adalbert church obtained a lavish, early Baroque decor with a monumental marble altar and a portal, designed by the royal architect Mateo Castello. During the Deluge and the Northern War the complex was completely looted and the buildings damaged.

In 1781 the Benedictines abandoned Płock and relocated themselves to Pułtusk. After the partition of Poland, a large part of the castle was demolished and its remains were taken over by a seminary. The church was liquidated in 1856. In 1866 the building was taken over by the Russian authorities, who established a gymnasium for girls that functioned until 1914. In the inter-war period, the building housed a school for organists and private apartments.

In the 1960s, after the adaptation of buildings, the Museum of Mazovia was located here. It opened to the public in 1973. In 2005 the Museum was relocated to a tenement house at Tumska Street. After another renovation in the years 2006-2008, the Diocesan Museum obtained display space in the building of our interest.

Description

The complex of historic buildings includes remains of a rotund positioned to the south of the building, wings of the monastery with relics of the St Adalbert church and defensive walls of the castle, the Clock Tower and the fortified tower (the Noble Tower). Four wings supported by buttresses were erected on a trapeze floor plan. The building is obscured by a tall curtain wall in the west and the north.

In the south-western corner there is a bulky fortified tower - the Noble Tower, also called the High Tower. The lower storey is quadrangular, the upper is octagonal, covered with a multi-hipped roof.

Opposite, there is a quadrangular Clock Tower, lavishly ornamented in the upper part, crowned with corner pinnacles and an onion-like cupola with a lantern. In the north it is broadened by an avant-corps, distinctive for its clock and a lacy Gothic attic.

Currently, the former Benedictine abbey building houses a treasury of the Diocesan Museum, where numerous artefacts of the sacred art have been collected, among others, a herma of St Sigismund, patron of Płock, and a famous cup with a paten, founded by Konrad of Mazovia.

The monument can be viewed from the outside. The interior can be viewed after purchasing a museum admission ticket.

Compiled by Bartłomiej Modrzewski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Warsaw, 14-10-2014

Bibliography

  • T. Glinka, M. Kamiński, M. Piasecki, K. Przygoda, A. Walenciak, Mazowsze północne. Przewodnik, Warszawa 1998.
  • K. Pacuski, Początki benedyktyńskiego opactwa św. Wojciecha na grodzie płockim, „Notatki płockie” 1995, nr 4/165, s. 3-9.
  • B. Pisz, Benedyktyni na grodzie płockim, „Notatki płockie” 1977, nr 3/91, s. 22-25.
  • Przewodnik. Płock i okolice, red. K. Strumińska, S. Płuciennik, Płock b.r.
  • Wzgórze Tumskie oraz dawny zamek. Serwis miasta Płock, http://www.plock.eu/pl/wzgorze_tumskie_oraz_dawny_zamek.html, dostęp: 14-10-2014.

General information

  • Type: monastery
  • Chronology: koniec XI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Tumska 2, Płock
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Płock, commune Płock
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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