Tyniec Abbey  

Tyniec Hill was inhabited long before the arrival of the Benedictines. Traces of settlement from the Neolithic (Lendziel culture) and Bronze period (Lusatian Culture) have been found on the hill. The Celtic peoples living in the vicinity of the hill during the late Lusatian period is known as the Tyniec group. The Benedictines arrived in 11th century. Tyniec Abbey is one of the first Benedictine monasteries in Poland. Since its founding origins it has remained within the diocese of Cracow. The location of the Abbey was of great political and economic significance. Till the end of the Middle Ages it was situated on a border area and the proximity of Cracow, the capital, often resulted in the Abbey, due to its defences, being the scene of fighting . Its location at the river crossing was of great importance not only for transportation but also for economic reasons.

The origins of the monastery are still the subject of discussion. The oldest written sources provide contradictory information. According to most of them Casimir the Restorer was the founder of the Abbey. In the most extensive report by the 15th-century historian Jan Dlugosz we read that the monastery was founded by the same ruler in 1044 and Aron, a monk from Cluny, who first held the office of bishop of Cracow,  was the first abbot. According to other sources the first abbot was Anchoras. Some historians have accepted the report of Dlugosz, others have opted for its foundation by Boleslaus the Generous or as an initiative of Casimir realized by Boleslaus. Aron, according to historical research, came from Brauweiller, and the first group of monks, at least in part, from Leodium. Likewise, art historians are not unanimous in their interpretation of   Tyniec’s origins. In their opinion the construction of the church and the monastery began in the time of Casimir or Boleslaus. According to one hypothesis a wooden temple was built before the Romanesque church. Remains of a stone church were discovered during the 1960s: this being made of sandstone on limestone foundations. It was a three-aisled basilica, with a four-span structure, without a transept. The rectangular presbytery and side aisles were closed with apses. The naves of the church were separated by square pillars with half-columns from the side aisles and by transverse pillars in the western span. In the western part there was a one-meter-long risalit on the axis. The eastern choir was vaulted, the nave was covered by a ceiling or open roof trusses and the aisles by cross vaulting. The vestibule of the western part was open to the side aisles. There was a gallery between the towers. In the northern aisle the oldest abbatial burials were discovered. They were adorned with gold and lead liturgical objects. These are likely to be the graves of the first abbots. Another important  tomb because of its location is that on the axis of the western part of the church. However, it was emptied in 13th century. According to some researchers it may have been the burial place of the founder, Boleslaus the Generous. His remains may have been moved to another location because of  his fall from grace after the murder of Stanislaus, bishop of Cracow. At the same time a wooden monastery was constructed, whose remains were discovered in the south-eastern part of the church. Rapidly wood was replaced by limestone. It is not clear if the stone cloister was already in existence within the Romanesque monastery. Its remains were not found during archaeological excavations. Double capitals covered with sculptural decoration are the only items related to the stone cloister. Independently of their function, they are proof of the attention paid to the artistic setting of the new abbey. Another example of such an eye for detail is Sacramentarium Tynecense brought to the monastery. Made circa  1075 in Cologne, it belongs to the so-called gold codex in which gold was used to make illuminations and golden texts The preserved remains of 12th and 13th century architectural details suggest the existence of several phases or rebuilding of the Romanesque church. The Tatar invasion in 1259 could have contributed to the monastery’s destruction. The Abbey’s natural defensive construction saw it bar the brunt of fighting amongst dukes for dominion of the land of Cracow. Therefore, in 1229, Abbot Lutfryd  managed to obtain papal patronage; the pope issuing  a ban on the construction of the fortifications on the hill. Possibly it was the same abbot who   had the abbatial residence built, the so-called ‘castle’ to the north-west of the church. Its original structure is not known. The oldest remains date back to 17th century. The tower was a  dominant feature over the gates and buttress wall.

According to one  hypothesis at the turn of 13th and 14th century an early-gothic limestone temple was constructed. At the latest during the third quarter of the 14th century the designation  to  Saints Peter and Paul was given to the church. At that time the gothic reconstruction of the monastery was carried out. Constructed, among other things, was the chapter house. The window openings and ogival portal preserved in the cloister’s west wing are traces of this reconstruction. Unidentified gothic buildings were also placed in the southern part of the hill (one reveals the corner of a rectangular and semicircular structure with added buttress). At the turn of the  15th century these buildings were demolished and in their place was constructed the defensive wall of the monastery’s southern wing. In the 15th century the defensive wall of the eastern part was built. The present baroque wall is situated on it.

In the second part of 15th century after Casimir Jagiellon had bought the principalities of Oswiecim and Zator, Tyniec was no longer a border region. This was the period of the construction of the new temple. The gothic church whose remains are still present in the current construction was based on Romanesque foundations. Older  materials, limestone and occasionally brick were used in its construction. This was a three-aisled hall church, the body of which consisted of four spans. The presbytery was a long rectangle, with three spans and a pentagonal closure from the east. Its height was similar to that of the side aisles. In the corner of the presbytery there was an arcaded chapel open to the nave. A richly profiled portal led into the church. Its façade and elevation were crowned by peaks in the form of steps. The north-western corner of the western elevation was dominated by the tower. It was surrounded by a heraldic frieze. The dedication of the church took place on 9th of October 1463 during the reign of abbot Matthias from Skawina. Its reduced scale fits in well with local building tradition, fully meeting the needs of monks.

Along with the construction of the church, monastery works were carried out. Older buildings were used and adapted to the new plan. The anomalies seen in the cloister (e.g., the different vault ribs profiles) testify to a lack of homogeneity. The cloister construction  was initiated by Abbot Matthias of Skawina and continued by Abbot Andrew Ozga for the years 1477-1486. Monastery buildings were erected to the south-west of the cloister. A hundred years after its consecration the new church was renovated. In the 16th century the church and the chapter house were adorned with a polychrome. Painted decoration in the form of coats appeared on the former ‘castle,’ whose tower was demolished. Workshops were arranged on the ground floor with the first floor serving as reception rooms. From the east the castle hugged the church; from the west it was combined with the newly erected administration buildings (the county office) and the defensive wall. The county office, apart from its administrative function, played an economic role. Later, guest rooms were arranged here.

At the end of 16th century the last free election of the abbot took place. From the next century abbots were appointed by the authorities. It happened that these were lay people. The abbots  managed all of the monastery’s possessions.

The baroque reconstruction of the gothic church was begun before 1618. In fact, only the nave was rebuilt. Its walls were lowered and the gothic presbytery was left without major changes. The three-nave-aisle system was replaced by a single nave with side chapels. These were connected by small passages. This solution made reference to to Jesuit architecture. The gothic cross vault was replaced by a barrel vault with lunettes. The lower part of the presbytery windows was walled up. The façade was dominated by the towers separated by a triangular peak. The new church was consecrated on 8th of May 1622. Its builders may have come from Cracow. The architectural solutions are characteristic for local design. The baroque reconstruction included also the monastery. A part of the chapter house decoration comes from this period. Then buildings around the larger garth and the southern wing were erected. This was connected to the county office – with the two-floor building having economic functions. In the middle of the courtyard a well was dug  or the older one, medieval in origin, was extended. As a consequence of the activity of the abbots Stanislaus Lubienski and Stanislaus Pstrokonski on  Tyniec hill the tight buildings system was founded in the first half of the 17th century included two garths and an outer courtyard. Unfortunately, during the Swedish invasion the monastery was taken and then burned down by Prince Rakoczy.

In this difficult time one of the most important figures was Father Stanislaus Szczygielski. In 1668 one of his works appeared – Tinecia, a chronicle glorifying the monastery, highlighting its tradition and significance. The legendary relations with the Abbey of Cluny were a major theme of the work. These were supposed to be have been weakened in the 16th century. Szczygielski was also a supporter of the idea of creating a Polish congregation of Benedictine monasteries with Tyniec playing the leading role. When the congregation was formed, it was to be the Holy Cross Abbey that took the leading role. Then monks from Tyniec turned to Cluny with request for admission to the Cluniac congregation. They received permission but the Apostolic nunciature objected to the plans. After the Concordat of Wschowa (1737) the situation of the monastery improved. According to this agreement the monks were able to elect the so-called cloister abbot, who  managed one third of the monastery’s incomes. This was to make possible a reorganization of the economy and repair of buildings. The renovation began in 1739 with the reconstruction of the former castle and repair of the county office. In the following year Tyniec became a part of the Benedictine congregation led by the Holy Cross Abbey.

In the mid-century the décor of the church was changed to the late baroque. The architect and sculptor Francesco Placidi and the painter Andrzej Radwanski were instrumental in these changes. In this period a set of wooden sculptures depicting saints, monks and allegorical figures was created. They are connected with Franz Joseph Mangoldt, the regarded Silesian sculptor or with his workshop. The monastery was also rebuilt. The portals of Dębnik marble are traces of this reconstruction.

Soon, a subsequent war was to reach Tyniec. In the years 1771-1772 it became a fortress of confederates, housed in the former castle and  county office. The abbey was converted into a fortress and reinforced with walls, bastions and berms. During the siege  by the Russian general Suvorov the church was burnt down and the county office and southern wing destroyed. At the end of 18th century the renovation was initiated by Abbot Florian Amand Janowski. The gothic presbytery received a barrel vault with lunettes and an eastern façade. The library was established in the reconstructed rooms of the southern wing.  Also renovated  was the former castle (Opatowka), leaving the county office in ruins.

After the Bar Confederation, Tyniec found itself within the borders of Austria and the monastery lost then a part of its property. In 1806 German Benedictines from Wiblingen were transferred to Tyniec. The Polish monks left or were forced to leave their own abbey. Three years later also the German monks left Tyniec. On the 8th  of August 1816 the Austrian emperor Francis I signed a decree to close the monastery. Three years later the diocese of Tyniec  was created. The church and monastery in Tyniec was supposed to be the seat of the new bishop. Eventually, in 1826 Tarnow was to become the capital of the diocese. A part  of the former abbey’s moveables were transferred to Tarnow where it is kept to this day in the  cathedral vault. Meanwhile, Tyniec hill was transferred to Jesuits who came from Russia. They spent only a few years in the monastery . On the night of 2nd  of May 1831 a bolt of lighting  caused a fire. Roofs and the habitable wing were destroyed, though the interior of the church was spared . Since then, the renovated church became a parish and Opatowka served as the seat of Tyniec property administration. The year 1932 was a significant date as it was then Jan Puzyna regained Tyniec. The Cardinal initiated renovations in the church and Opatowka. The monastery served as rest home for seminarians.

Benedictines returned to Tyniec just before the outbreak of World War II. Karol van Oost, a monk from Belgium who had spent several years in Poland  searching  for a new Benedictine foundation, was the first prior. He chose Tyniec, and after many years of efforts monks returned to the abbey.

The outbreak of the war did not stop the renovation of the monastery. In 1943 Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz conducted an archaeological dig and presented the first project,  one that remained uncompleted. After the war Zbigniew Kupiec created a new project. Its implementations were accompanied by restoration and archaeological works – under the direction of Gabriel Lenczyk. In 1961 interdisciplinary architectural and archaeological research was carried out by Prof. Lech Kalinowski. During these excavations the Romanesque church was discovered. This research was preceded by wide-ranging restoration inside the church itself: altars and stalls were preserved. The baroque pulpit in the form of a boat was returned to the church. By the end of 20th century the monastery had been rebuilt with emphasis put on the maintaining of its clear architectural form. Reconstruction of the south-western part of the monastery (the so-called ‘great ruin’) was the final stage of the work. In 2013 Tyniec became a member of Federation of Cluniac sites. 

fot. Katarzyna Bruzda