ccording to popular tradition, the monastery in the village of Mstów was founded by the bishop of Cracow, Iwo Odrowąż (d. 1229), who settled here twelve monks taken from the Wrocław abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His premise was to create a strong Christian cultural center in the area aimed at reducing disorder and raising Christian awareness among the local population. However, linking the origins of the monastery to the Bishop of Cracow is only one of the historical versions. According to another, the canons settled in Mstów already before 1145 on the initiative of the palatine Piotr Włostowic (d. 1153), with the approval of the Cracow prince Władysław II (the Exile, d. 1159) and Bishop Robert (d. 1143).
VIEW FROM THE SOUTH
In 1212, a synod of Polish bishops was held in Mstów, with participants including the archbishop of Gniezno Henryk Kietlicz, the bishop of Cracow Iwo Odrowąż, the bishop of Wrocław Wawrzyniec, the bishop of Lubuskie Wawrzyniec and the bishop-elect of Poznań Paweł. The synod passed a resolution that dealt with the obligation of secrecy during meetings of chapter members. This was one of the first steps toward the clergy's independence from secular authority.
NEXT TO THE WALLS OF THE MONASTERY
t the beginning, the Mstów monastery was a branch of the Wrocław abbey. Only at an early stage of the 15th century did it become independent of Wrocław, and the first superior of the already autonomous facility was Mikołaj Isner of Kraków, a relative of Jan Isner (d. 1411), a professor of theology at the Academy of Kraków. In the vicinity of the monastery, the village developed dynamically, which in 1279 - as the first in the region - received town rights. At the time, Mstów served as a border center with a ford on the Warta River and a customs chamber, and this fact probably had an impact on the decision to build the (still wooden) monastery fortifications. The defensive walls were badly needed here, since in the 13th and 14th centuries the town repeatedly became the destination of plundering expeditions by border bands and some Silesian dukes.
BRICK MONASTERY FORTIFICATIONS WERE ERECTED IN THE XVII CENTURY
ccording to medieval Polish chronicler Jan Długosz, at the beginning of the 15th century Mstów had 105 farms and exceptionally good soil and climate, so that grains and grasses were better here, cattle were fatter and more beautiful, and sheep yielded finer wool than anywhere in Poland. During the reign of
Louis of Hungary (Nagy Lajos, d. 1382), the town, together with Olsztyn starosty and Brzeźnica, became the fief of the plunderer Ladislaus Opolczyk. The number of crimes of this germanized Silesian prince proved so great that the impatient (King of Poland)
Ladislaus Jagiełło set out against him. Having captured Olsztyn, the king, along with the Mazovian princes Jan and Ziemowit, entertained a short time in the monastery [...]. Jagiełło stayed here a second time in 1403, on his way to meet King Wenceslas of Luxembourg (Václav IV Lucemburský) of Bohemia.
MONASTERY SEEN FROM THE NORTH, ON THE HORIZON YOU CAN BARELY SEE THE RUINS OF OLSZTYN CASTLE
n the first half of the 15th century, on the site of the old church, a Gothic edifice was built, which in 1441 gained the rank of collegiate church dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Several decades later, the abbots erected new monastic buildings, which may have already hosted the great knights' convention held in Mstów in 1474 on the occasion of King
Casimir Jagiellon's (Kazimierz Jagiellończyk) preparations for an armed expedition to Hungary. After the king's departure towards Wrocław, the abbey and all its domains looked as if after a war, as the 60,000-strong army had completely eaten all the food from the surrounding villages and farms. At the time, the monastery housed between 10 and 20 monks permanently, who ran a parish school, a hospital and a study to prepare applicants for the priesthood.
THE MONASTERY VESTIBULE, DRAWING FROM 1872
t the beginning of the 17th century, the monastery gained brick fortifications (previously they were made of wood). However, they proved too fragile to hold back the Swedish army, which in 1655, after a siege of several days, burned the town and monastery buildings, as well as committed numerous murders of the local population. Both the wars with Sweden and the progressive changes in relations between local centers caused Mstów to lose its leading position on the economic map of the region in the 17th century, giving way to Częstochowa, which was already larger at the time. The religious significance of the monastery also gradually marginalized, due to the rapid development of the cult of
the holy image at Jasna Góra, located nearby.
ENGRAVING FROM THE WEEKLY MAGAZINE "KŁOSY" (1876) SHOWING A FRAGMENT OF THE MONASTERY FORTIFICATIONS,
THE VESTIBULE OF THE MONASTERY AND THE "ROCK OF LOVE" LOCATED NEAR THE FORTIFIED COMPLEX
n 1702, the monastery church burned down. Instead of rebuilding it, it was decided to erect a completely new sanctuary. When it was almost finished disaster struck - during the religious service the pillars of one of the naves broke, causing the collapse of the ceilings and part of the walls, and the death of at least three people. The new temple was finally consecrated in 1748 by
Franciszek Kobielski, bishop of Łuck and chancellor of
Queen Mary, wife of
August III. The Baroque church received nine beautiful altars, of which two were funded by the Confraternity of the Rosary.
BAROQUE CHURCH WAS BUILT IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE XVIII CENTURY
eginning in the 18th century a slow decline followed, both of the monastery and the neighboring town. The church burned down again in 1766 (or 1776) and in 1800. Great damage was also done here by the Russian army, which passed through Mstów in 1709 and in 1768, as well as numerous natural disasters, like flooding of the Warta River and rampant plagues. In 1798, the Prussian government confiscated most of the monastery's property, paying in return an annual compensation of 25,000 zlotys and 250 fathoms of firewood. Shortly thereafter, in 1822, the monastery was abolished and henceforth served as a rectory. Its last abbot was Franciszek Atanazy Nałęcz Tański, who died in 1830.
ST. BARBARA CEMETERY CHAPEL IN THE FOREGROUND, MONASTERY IN THE DISTANCE - WOODCUT FROM 1872
n 1914, the monastery was occupied by the German army, which brought hurricane Russian fire on it. Grenades destroyed both church towers, perforated the vaults, ripped off the roofs and strained the walls. Even the ancient trees surrounding the monastery did not survive, as most of them fell, crushed by cannon balls. German troops did not respect the temple. Once it served them as a dormitory, the second time as stables for horses. What represented any value became their loot. They stole the largest bell, pipes from the organ, tore off votive offerings from the image of the Virgin Mary, among which were beautiful beads, and even stole the church's linen.
WORLD WAR I, RUINED RECTORY (FORMER CONVENT)
fter 1918, the church stood abandoned for a long time, as there were no daredevils among the clergy who would have the courage to enter the collapsing walls of the church and monastery building, and take over the parish. It was not until 1960 that the local parish priest, Father Michał Maniewski (d. 1963), began rebuilding the ruined edifices and reconstructing the 17th-century fortification wall. His work was continued in the 1960s and 1980s by local parish priests, among them the distinguished Father
Stanisław Borecki (d. 1990). During this time, a treasure of around a thousand 14th-16th century coins in total was discovered on and near the monastery on three occasions. In 1990 - after an absence of almost 200 years - the church and monastery buildings were taken over again by the Lateran Canons Regular.
THE MONASTERY IN THE 1930S AND 1940S
The Order's beginnings can be traced back to the so-called clerical communities established in the Church at the initiative of various bishops at the turn of the 4th and 5th centuries, while its golden age came in the 12th and 13th centuries, when there were more than 2,500 centres belonging to this congregation throughout Europe. The Lateran Congregation, as one of the later ones, was established in Italy at the beginning of the 15th century and received papal approval in 1446.
The oldest Polish monasteries of Canons Regular were founded in Trzemeszno, Czerwińsk, Wrocław, Kalisz, Mstów and Żagań, as well as Kraków. Later, their history unfolded in different ways until the end of the 18th century, when they slowly began to disappear. At present, the Order has five larger monasteries in Poland, runs 11 parishes (Kraków, Ełk, Mstów, Drezdenko, Nowe Drezdenko, Straduny, Niegosław, Kamień, Rąpin, Kiry, Wawierka) and the Marian Sanctuary at Gietrzwałd.
The Order bases its discipline of life on the Rule of St. Augustine, which was not one of the strictest, nor did it define specific pastoral tasks, so the canons were most often involved in pastoral work, and to a lesser extent in hospitality and education. Monks wear a black cassock on weekdays and a white one on feast days.
CANONS REGULAR ON LITHOGRAPHS BY JULIUS VOLKMAR FLECK, 1848
he oldest, Romanesque church is believed to have been founded as early as the 12th century. Soon afterwards, it was rebuilt in Gothic style or erected from scratch as a Gothic temple. On its foundation in the first half of the 18th century, a new three-nave Baroque edifice rose with a wide western façade, decorated with two towers, whose height was increased at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, SOUTH ELEVATION
he interior of the church contains as many as eleven altars, including the late Baroque main altar, built partly in marble and partly in plaster stucco, as well as two Rococo side altars: in the Chapel of St Augustine and in the Chapel of the Virgin Mary. The historic furnishings of the temple include an 18th-century organ prospectus, two baptismal fonts from 1714, a baroque pulpit and canonical stalls, as well as numerous epitaphs and wall plaques. About a hundred graves of monks and lay people who died between 1646 and 1794 have been preserved in its vaults.
CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, MAIN NAVE
f particular importance for the believers is the miraculous and grace-famousimage of Our Lady of Mstów, located in the church, which has been treated as an object of worship since the second half of the 17th century. It is an oil portrait inspired by the image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra, measuring 39 x 49 cm. The painting is decorated with silver and gilt sheet metal, in which ornaments have been engraved. It is believed that the icon was purchased in the first half of the 17th century at one of the fairs by Stefan Zamojski, the then owner of the village of Strzelce, and became famous after he allegedly cured Zamojski's niece from paralysis. In 1647, the image of the Virgin Mary was given to the canons in Mstów, and it soon began to be the destination of pilgrimages.
IMAGE OF MOTHER OF GOD OF MSTÓW IN A SILVER DRESSING
djoining the church to the north is the stone-brick convent building with three wings arranged in a broken S-shape, of which the oldest one, the southern wing, dates from the 15th century and is characterised by thick walls with small Gothic windows. It housed, among others, a cross-vaulted chapter house, a library, as well as chambers for monks and monastery's subjects. The middle wing was probably built in the 16th century, also in Gothic style. The youngest, northern wing of the monastery dates from the 18th century.
CHURCH AND RECTORY (FORMER CLOISTER)
t the beginning of the 17th century, the monastery was surrounded by a stone wall more than 700 metres in length, fortified with ten towers: five of these stood in the corners, two in the eastern wall, two in the southern wall and one in the northern wall. It also included a Baroque guardhouse and two gates: the two-storey main gate in the southern wall (now the bell tower) and the farm gate leading into the monastery grounds from the east. The fortified hill was additionally protected by earth ramparts with a moat, which were levelled at the end of the 17th century.
BELL TOWER (FORMERLY THE MAIN GATE) WITH THE REMAINS OF THE GATE PASSAGEWAY
hat remains of the former fortification is a wall (partly reconstructed) with nine towers and the remnants of the northern tower, the walled-up southern gate serving today as a bell tower, and the much-transformed former guardhouse. Today, the monastery grounds can be accessed through the west gate, which was built in the 18th century in the late Baroque style.
MONASTERY GATES: EASTERN (ABOVE) AND WESTERN
Free entry to the church grounds and temple within opening hours.
Due to the sacred nature of the site, dogs and other pets are not allowed.
stów is located 15 km east of Czętochowa. It can be reached from this city by bus line no. 30 or by own means of transport.
Free parking is available on Targowa Street, near the gate.
Bicycles can be brought into the monastery grounds.
1. J. Bogdanowski: Jura warowna jaki kulturowy zasób turystyczny
2. P. Dettloff: Obraz srebrny z kościoła kanoników regularnych w Mstowie, Instytut Sztuki PAN
3. M. Kantor-Mirski: Warowny klasztor w Mstowie, Drukarnia L. Martynkowski i L. Nowak 1929
4. R. Sypek: Zamki i obiekty warowne Jury Krakowsko-Częstochowskiej
Castles nearby: Olsztyn - ruins of a royal castle from the 14th century, 13 km Częstochowa - fortified monastery of the Pauline Order at Jasna Góra, 14 km
Suliszowice - remains of a royal watchtower from the 14th century, 25 km Ostrężnik - remains of a royal castle from the 14th century, 26 km Przewodziszowice - remains of a royal watchtower from the 14th century, 32 km
Łutowiec - remains of a royal watchtower from the 14th century, 35 km Mirów - ruins of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 35 km Bobolice - royal castle from the 14th century (reconstruction), 37 km
Morsko - ruins of a 14th-century Bąkowiec castle, 46 km