Franciscan monastery complex, Pyzdry
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Franciscan monastery complex

Pyzdry

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The Franciscan monastery complex in Pyzdry, dating back to the 14th century, originally Gothic in style, redesigned in the Baroque style in the 17th century and the second half of the 18th century, is one of the three surviving medieval Franciscan monastery complexes in Greater Poland. Its monastic cloister conceals a valuable figural wall painting executed between the 2nd half of the 14th century and the early 16th century, foliate painted decorations in the Renaissance style from the 2nd half of the 16th century as well as polychrome decorations executed in 1733 by the renowned Franciscan painter, Adam Swach.

History

The history of the town of Pyzdry can be traced back to the 13th century. The earliest mention of the land of Pyzdry dates back to the year 1234. Over the years, the town’s convenient location at the junction of important routes leading from Poznań towards Łęczyca and from Kalisz towards Gniezno proved conducive to its economic development. It is suspected that this area was also the site of a ducal stronghold designed to protect the Warta river crossing in the vicinity of which the trading settlement was established. The town of Pyzdry was chartered before the year 1257, which places it among the oldest chartered towns in all of Greater Poland. Pyzdry was a royal town, the seat of the local eldership (starostwo). Later on, from the 14th century onwards, the town served as the capital of the entire district.

The earliest mentions confirming the existence of a Franciscan monastery in Pyzdry date back from the year 1277, with the founders of the monastery being duke Bolesław the Pious and his wife, Jolanta. The original buildings of the monastery were destroyed by the Teutonic Knights in 1331. The surviving church of the Beheading of St John the Baptist and the monastery were erected in 1339, on the site of the earlier structures. The Gothic structures have been damaged by fire on three occasions - in 1589, 1768 and 1880. The subsequent reconstruction works led to a change in their appearance, so that the buildings that emerged in the 17th and the 18th century bore hallmarks of the Baroque style. A chapel of the Virgin Mary was most likely added to the nave of the church during the 17th century, with Jan Nosowski providing the funding for its construction. During the 2nd half of the 18th century, the church was enriched through the addition of a tower, while its western façade underwent a redesign. During the same period, the final bay of the chancel was adapted to serve as a sacristy, with a library located directly above. According to the description dating back to the year 1764, there was a cemetery outside the church, while a wattle-and-daub utility building and the house of the prior stood alongside the monastery, although information on the prior’s house remains vague at best. The entire site was circumscribed by a wall and also included a monastic garden. In 1864, the Russian authorities have ordered the dissolution of the monastery. The restoration of the church, based on the design by the architect Aleksander Przewalski, took place somewhere around the year 1910. Subsequent renovation works were performed in years 1920 and 1937. Extensive conservation works inside the monastery begun in 1957 and were then continued in years 1995-1998, resulting in parts of the building being adapted to serve as a museum. Today, the church performs the function of a filial church, while one of the wings of the monastery serves as a museum and library.

Description

The monastery complex stands at the edge of an embankment running alongside the Warta river, in the south-eastern part of Pyzdry, on Kaliska street. It is partially surrounded with a fence made of wrought-iron spans suspended between brick posts and partially with a stone wall. The church is oriented towards the east, with the monastery buildings adjoining the church to the north.

The church of the Beheading of St John the Baptist retains its Gothic overall shape and layout despite the subsequent redesign in the Baroque style. The building was erected on a rectangular floor plan. The four-bay nave is adjoined by a narrower, elongated chancel with a polygonal termination. The sacristy, designed on an octagonal floor plan, is located in the last bay of the chancel, behind the main altar. A small treasury and the stairs leading to the monastery can be found on the northern side of the sacristy. A rectangular, two-bay chapel of the Virgin Mary, dating back to the 17th century, rises on the northern side of the nave, merging into the adjoining wing of the monastery. A tower with a porch on the ground floor level, designed on a square floor plan, rises towards the west. The body of the church is compact in shape, its walls supported by buttresses. Both the nave and the slightly lower chancel are covered by tall gable roofs. A small steeple rises above the eastern gable of the nave. The entire building is dominated by a tall, three-storey tower topped with a Baroque spire.

The church is a brick building with plaster-covered walls, its bricks laid in a Gothic bond. The roofs are covered with ceramic roof tiles. Inside, brick vaulting rises high above the nave and chancel.

The plastered façades of the church are crowned with profiled cornices. The windows, topped with segmental arches, are arranged in two distinct zones. The north façade, designed in the Late Baroque style, features an axially positioned tower and is framed by buttresses ending in low finials; profiled cornices and decorative niches adorn the façade and divide it into a number of distinct areas. The tower is framed with corner pilasters and crowned with a profiled cornice. Sections of the front gable, framed with convexo-concave fractables, can be seen on both sides of the tower.

The interiors of the nave and chancel feature sail vaults with faux domes and supporting arches. The arches supporting the vault rest upon a series of piers lined against the wall. The walls are divided by pilasters which serve as support for the profiled entablature. The western bay of the nave houses a choir gallery, supported by three arches underneath. The sacristy is covered with a dome consisting of eight sections, with a barrel vault with lunettes being used for the chapel of the Virgin Mary.

The interior fixtures and fittings of the church are far from uniform and include, among others, a set of Baroque and Rococo Revival altarpieces, made somewhere around the year 1910 by Aleksander Przewalski, the headstones of Michał Skórzewski and his wife Ludwika née Czapski, dating back to the late 18th century, as well as the fittings inside the sacristy, originating from the 2nd half of the 18th century.

The monastery also began its life as a Gothic building and retains the overall shape from that era, although it has subsequently been redesigned in the Baroque style; erected on a quadrilateral floor plan, the building features a garth surrounded by a cloister. The compact, two-storey building features hip roofs over its individual sections, its walls supported by sturdy buttresses. The monastery is a brick building with plastered walls; the bricks are laid in monk and Gothic bonds. The roofs are clad with ceramic roof tiles. The interior of the ground floor section of the cloister features groin vaults supported by arches, double barrel vaults and barrel vaults with lunettes, with barrel and groin vaults being used for the first-floor section. All façades of the monastery are covered with plaster. The windows are rectangular in shape. Inside, the vaulted cloister opens up towards the garth beyond in a series of semi-circular arches. The former chancel, adjoining the chancel and accessible through a pointed-arch opening, can be found in the southern section of the cloister. Its walls are adorned with polychrome decorations, including Late Gothic paintings from the 2nd half of the 15th century and the early 16th century, depicting St Jerome, Michael the Archangel and St Clare as well as St Roch with an angel.

Wall paintings executed in 1733 by a Franciscan painter, Adam Swach, portraying eighteen scenes from the life of St Francis, occupy spaces inside the arches positioned right underneath the cloister vault.

The church is open to visitors. More information on the parish and the church service schedule can be found online at www.parafia.pyzdry.pl

The monastery complex (the eastern wing) also houses the Regional Museum. The museum exhibition is dedicated to the history of the town of Pyzdry and the surrounding area. Visitors may also explore the cloister, with its rich collection of painted decorations from the period between the 14th and the 18th century. Detailed information, the opening hours, and the admission prices are available on the website: www.pyzdry.pl. Information concerning the public library can be found online at www.bibliotekapyzdry.pl

compiled by Krzysztof Jodłowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Poznań, 30-07-2014.

Bibliography

  • Czerniak R. M., Klasztor franciszkanów w Pyzdrach, [w:] Franciszkanie konwentualni i klaryski w Wielkopolsce od XIII do XIX w. : katalog wystawy, Gniezno 2006, s. 205-20.
  • Dubowski A., Zabytkowe kościoły Wielkopolski, Poznań 1956, s. 230-31.
  • Gotyckie kościoły w Wielkopolsce, koncepcja, teksty i wybór fotografii P. Maluśkiewicz, Poznań 2008, s. 220-21.
  • Grzesikowa H., Konserwacja malowideł ściennych w krużgankach pofranciszkańskich klasztoru w Pyzdrach, pow, Września, „Ochrona Zabytków”, 15, 1962, nr 4, s. 58-69.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, t. V, z. 29: powiat wrzesiński, Warszawa 1960, s. 14-15.
  • Tomala J., Murowana architektura romańska i gotycka w Wielkopolsce, t. 1, Architektura sakralna, Kalisz 2007, s. 372-74.
  • Zabytkowe klasztory w Wielkopolski, koncepcja, teksty i wybór fotografii P. Maluśkiewicz, Poznań 2006, s. 276-81.

General information

  • Type: monastery
  • Chronology: 1339 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kaliska , Pyzdry
  • Location: Voivodeship wielkopolskie, district wrzesiński, commune Pyzdry - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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