Lubin Abbey  

In 11th century the Benedictines were invited to Poland to support the rulers of the new Polish state in the difficult process of political structural organisation . Monks, with their knowledge of Latin, were indispensable in creating the ducal chanceries and  in the handling of foreign policy. The abbeys  founded were not only places of political support for the state authorities but also centres of cultural and spiritual life. The monastery in Lubiń combined these two goals in a very clear way. The convent was transferred from the Belgian St. James' Abbey in Liége (Latin Leodium) circa 1075 by Bolesław the Generous. It is supposed that the foundation of the abbey was to strengthen the king's position and be his votum (donation) for the crown. The short reign of the king had a negative impact on the construction works. Probably only the western and southern part of the church were finished during the early phase of the building work. According to  archaeological research this was to be a three-aisled basilica without transept. The eastern part of the church was completed with three apses: the main apse and two smaller ones, not creating a full semicircle. The terminated construction works were resumed by Bolesław Wrymouth with the support of the Awdaniec family. The original building was partially pulled down and in its place a new one was built, utilising previously used materials: granite blocks and glacial erratics. For the architectonic details, portals, window borders, and sculptures sandstone from Bolesławiec and Złotoryja was used. The new complex had a one-aisled main body and an expanded eastern part with two chapels closed off with apses and presbytery equally so enclosed. Over the western part  was a tower. Its lowest part was a one-pillar crypt located  in the ground at no great depth. The church was finished and dedicated in 1145. Next to the church a monastery was gradually build, in which probably already from its inception places for a scriptorium and library had been planned. It is supposed that this was the work place   of Gallus Anonymus, who came to the court of Bolesław Wrymouth to pen the first Polish chronicle Cronicae et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum. The reign of Mieszko the Old was also favourable for the abbey for under his reign the monastery buildings and the church were expanded. The eastern part of the church was modified. The apse was pulled down and in its place simply a closed presbytery was created. Additionally the northern part of the transept was demolished and a long chapel enclosed with an apse was built instead. There were also some modifications in the western part, where the staircase was replaced by a tower. The importance of Lubiń Abbey was acknowledged by a papal bull of 1267, according to which the abbot was responsible to the Pope alone. But at the same time the monastery was connected strongly with the Piast dynasty and with the Awdaniec family, consequently   becoming their burial place. Bolesław Mieszkowic of Kuyawia, Władysław Spindleshanks were buried there, as most probably  Władysław Odonic (the grandson of Mieszko the Old). However, the 13th century was not only marked by successes, as  mid century the monastery was hit by  fire, supposedly during one of the Tatar invasions which depopulated  the Poland of the day. At the end of the century another rebuilding of the monastery was started, beginning with the northern wing, where the refectory was located. But due to the war that then broke out between the Grzymała and Nałęcz families the monastery and the church were plundered and burned down in 1383. The damage precipitated the decision to renovate the destroyed walls. The main modifications were introduced in the eastern part. The chapel located in the northern part of the presbytery was rebuild and its function was also altered as one part was turned into a sacristy and the other became the treasury. The presbytery itself was also altered and crowned with a characteristic external stepped gable. Thanks to the colour differentiation of the elements in this part of the church, plastering the false windows white and adding slim pinnacles, stressed was the soaring verticality of the church. A similar gable enclosed the western end of the main body. It is supposed that the works were conducted by Lorek of Kościan, a well-known builder, who took part in building the Church of Our Lady in Poznań. The whole area of the monastery was surrounded by a wall with a gateway. The church was given a Gothic character, equipped with three new altars and dedicated in 1462. However, in spite of the renovation works the condition of the western part of the church began to deteriorate to such an extent, that in 1530 renewed construction works began. The walls of the nave and the tower were partially pulled down, leaving only those fragments  in a good condition. Over the Romanesque walls, new Gothic brick walls were built. The period from  1604 to 1737 sees  the holding of office by commendatory abbots, this being a type of a dual power system – the office was held by two abbots, one chosen by the community and the other nominated by the ruler. In 17th century those prosperous moments in the abbey's history were intertwined with ones of decline. At the beginning of the century construction works on a new wing for the monastery building and a chapel on the southern part of the church were begun (they were built in the years 1603-1623). The building efforts were obstructed by an invasion and the plundering of the monastery and  church by Wolf Heinrich von Baudissin in 1627. The destruction was so considerable that not later than in 1643 was renovation and construction works resumed; works that took three years under the direction of Feter of Wrocław.  Walerian of Krotoszyn, who was a roofer and brazier and Sebastian Hubert of Upper Silesia – a goldsmith equally participated in the undertaking. At that time the church tower was given a slim, two-level tented roof, decorated in the lower part with the Ogończyk coat of arms. The monks were not, however, able to enjoy the renovated church for  long, for during the Swedish Deluge they were not only robbed, but also forced into flight. During the worst period of the war, until the year 1655, they stayed in Silesia. The series of 17th-century disasters  was crowned  by the destruction of the church tower by a lightning bolt. The friars had to restart the construction works. The most important part of the church renovation was conducted in the years 1730-1793, when the Romanesque-Gothic structure was given  a Baroque-Rococo external form. Its effect being a complete change in form   through the addition of two chapels to the main body, which created a transept. The sight of the western tower was also altered by strengthening the construction with an additional wall and through adding buttresses. From the western part the tower was left without plasterwork and a part of the Gothic wall was visible and exposed in a special framing in the form of a two-storey high semicircular niche. At the bottom of the niche the composition was finished with a small wrought iron balcony for the orchestra. The northern and southern wall faces were plastered and set offwith false windows. From the west a vestibule with a sizeable portal was built. In this manner the form of the church was completely changed as a result of the Baroque restoration.  Despite its oblong plan, it gives the impression of being central  because of the addition of the arms of the transept and the use of a cupola vault at the crossing of the aisles. Also the interior of the chapels, presbytery and the vault were given a new look and décor. Probably the workshop of Jan Jerzy Urbański of Wrocław was involved  in creating the new altars:: they are stucco and wooden architectonic structures. A dynamic marbleized form was rested  on pairs of pillars and  crowned  with a composition of a mitred cornice supporting reversed volutes. A different  shape was given to the finial of the main altar, which was a sunburst aureole. In the central part of the main altar  was an image of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, created at the workshop of Paul Troger. New choir stalls, produced in  woodcarving workshops in Wrocław, were located in the presbytery. In the mid 17th century Jan Jerzy Hamel gilded them and adorned them with paintings. The painted and carved presentations on the stalls represent the Church Fathers and the ensuing biblical message. Above the stalls  were scenes from the life of Judith and Esther. The walls of the presbytery and the vaults of the whole church were covered with a stucco decoration, which created frames for painted scenes and trompe-l'oeil architectural images. The polychromes are attributed either to Wacław Graff of Poznań or a Benedictine monk coming from Bavaria, named Gross or Croft. Used in the iconography of the presentations were themes from the history of Mary, in accordance  with the church’s dedication. On the presbytery vault  was the Assumption scene, at the crossing of the naves – allegorical representations of the Six Virtues of  Mary, on the nave vault – the Triumph of the Virgin Mary and on the vault of the southern chapel – the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. Only in the northern Saint Benedict chapel and on the vault of the western part, above the organs, is an apotheosis of Saint Benedict and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of choir singers, organists and musicians, presented.  The work on the monastery buildings continued in parallel; them undergoing  modernisation  until the 1790s. At the beginning of the 19th century a sculpture of Saint John Nepomucene was placed in front of the gateway to the abbey. In 1834 the Prussian authorities decided to dissolve the monastery, resulting in its ruination. The liturgical paraments were divided between the nearby parishes. The library's collections were taken to the Royal Library in Berlin and to the libraries in Gniezno and Poznań. The monastery printing house was also destroyed. Afterwards, the demolition of the monastery commenced; this lasting  until 1847 and involved 70% of the  building stock. The  abbey church was turned into a parish church, the monks were dispersed and the monastery was to remain uninhabited until 1923.

The Lubiń Abbey was re-consecrated  on 25th February 1924 and the new abbot became Ernest Vykoukol, from the Emmaus monastery in Prague. Under his leadership the new inhabitants of Lubiń started the job of restoring the ruined monastery. The monks rebuild the western, most severely destroyed monastery wing. A library and the Museum of the Kościan Lands were established. The main focus was on gathering and guarding the tradition and relics of the history of the abbey and its surroundings. In the monastery chambers an ”Adam Mickiewicz room” was organised to commemorate the artist's stay at the abbey. In the museum numismatic, distinctions and sphragistic relics were gathered. In 1938 the monks decided to open a men's secondary schoolwithin the monastery walls but the plans were hindered by the war. At the beginning of 1940 a camp for interned priests and monks from Greater Poland was created in the monastery. In the course of the following years the Lubiń convent dispersed and its goods, including the new library collections, were disposed of. Until the end of the war the monastery acted as an almshouse for Poles and a training place for  Nazi youth. With the withdrawal of Hitler’s army the monks began to return to the abbey, which was  organised anew. In 1952 efforts were made to open a seminar but the secular state authorities closed it down the very same year. The duties of the parish and the monastery were also divided. In order to facilitate and speed up the organisational process  two Fathers from Tyniec Abbey came to Lubiń. From 1954, with short intervals, renovation, conservation and research works were carried out at the abbey. The most important ones beginning in 1978, when a team under the leadership of Prof. Zofia Kurnatowska from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences discovered relics of the oldest buildings. After the conclusion of the research in 1994 the renovation work on  the church commenced and the recovered monastery land was revamped with a garden and  orchard being created .