Churches and Monasteries
Monasteries represent a particular type of construction which evolved predominantly in medieval cities. They were financed by rulers, and later by powerful families, and were much more impressive in size and richer in form than parish churches. Some 180 Gothic places of worship had been built in Wielkopolska by the middle of the 16th century.
The Dominicans and the Franciscans are both mendicant orders. Their churches were fairly modest architecturally, with a single nave and an extended presbytery. The best example of this is the Franciscan Church in Gniezno whose construction commenced c. 1270.
The Kalisz Franciscan church has an extended presbytery as well but was erected as a three-nave church in the mid-13th century.
The post-Franciscan monastic complex in Pyzdry was built in 1257-1277. The church was renovated during the baroque period although the single-nave Gothic configuration was maintained.
A Dominican monastery was also built in Poznań before 1297. The luxurious summit of the east wall (1536) is especially noteworthy, as is the “Piast” (three barrel) rib vault in the presbytery (c. 1404).
Churches erected during the early Gothic period (from the 2nd half of the 8th century to the 1st half of the 14th) are characterised by features inherited from Romanism, such as a simple internal arrangement (a single rectangular nave), a closed east presbytery wall (a result of Cistercian influence), a square choir loft and possibly a wooden tower. Churches in Gniezno (St. John’s was first built in the mid-14th century and rebuilt at the turn of the 15th and 16th), Ostrzeszów (the presbytery is c. 1337 and the nave from the 15th century), Pobiedziska (early 14th century), Siedlnica in Wschowa County (1300-1310), Stary Gostyń (c. 1300), Dalewo in Śrem County (1st half of the 14th century), Góra, now a district of Żnin (first built in the 14th century and often rebuilt) have all survived, although they have been altered to a greater or lesser extent. The former collegiate church in Głuszyna (now on the outskirts of Poznań) stands out by virtue of its variegated detail. Lubiesz (Wałcz County) has a modest stone church dating from the 14th century.
St. Nicholas Church in Kalisz is richer in that it has a three-nave early Gothic layout. It was built by Bolesław the Pious in 1253, just after the incorporation of the city.
A popular saying has it that Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir III the Great) found Poland built in wood and left in built in stone. The three-nave Gothic churches in Kalisz (collegiate), Konin and Stawiszyn were all endowed with royal funding. The single-nave Church of St. Margaret in Śródka, Poznań (at the time, a separate city) was erected in the 2nd half of the 14th century. The Wschowa parish church also has a connection with Casimir the Great as the king married Princess Jadwiga of Żagan here in 1365. The church was built c. 1326-60.
The decision to build a new Gniezno Cathedral was also taken at this time. The initiative came from Abp Jarosław Bogoria Skotnicki, who wanted to create a building worthy of the spiritual capital of Poland.