The Jędrzejów Abbey is the oldest Cistercian abbey in Poland. Janik Jaksa, later Archbishop of Gniezno, and his brother Klemens founded in 1140.
The monks came from Morimond in France to the small Brzeźnica.
The Jedrzejów Monastery was the twenty-first branch of a French monastery. The monastery bore the name “Morimond minor” to distinguish it from the moterland . The founder Janik , who invited the monks, gifted the monastery a part of his property – eight villages. In addition the Brzeźniki church was also granted tithes from several villages by the bishops of Cracow. The founders also gave the monks a single-nave church of St Adalbert (or St Andrew), dating to 1110. The Romanesque style and a fragment of the apse of this temple have survived to this day. This first church was consecrated by the Krakow bishop Maurus.
The market settlement, to which the monks came, was on one of the amber routes, as well as on the road leading to the east – via Andreovia.
The monks came to this place to convert the peoples of pagan Rusland. The monks built a monastery and a monastery church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Adalbert. Bishop Wincenty Kadlubek of Kraków consecrated the church in 1210. Eight years later, with the Pope’s consent, this great clergyman left the bishopric and joined the Jedrzejów monastery.
The abbey developed dynamically, thanks to which branches were established in Ludźmierz in Podhale (1235) and in Rudy (1252).
The monastery was a very important centre of religious and cultural life. The monks took care of the local population on various levels of life. Spiritual – by running local parishes, cultural – by creating small elementary schools, or medical – by establishing a hospice and hospital. The monks also dealt with fish farming. The monastery had mills, a sawmill and a glassworks. On the abbey grounds there was also an organ building workshop. The activity of the “white monks” largely contributed to the fact that Bolesław Wstydliwy (Belesław the Ashamed) in 1271granted the small settlement town rights.
The flourishing of the abbey ended together with the establishment of the office of the commendatory abbot .
The monks could not elect the commendatory , the secular authorities imposed him. The economic ruin of the abbey took place at the time of the Swedish deluge, during which the Swedish soldiers plundered the abbey, as well as by the fires of 1726 and 1800. The first fire burnt down the church, the walls were damaged and the vault was destroyed. The second fire had worse consequences for the monastery itself. The fire destroyed the archive and library, which contained, among others, the letter of St. Bernard to the Cistercians from Jędrzejów, as well as the original “Chronicle of the Poles” by Master Vincent.
After these events the abbey did not return to its splendour.
To make matters worse, in 1819 Tsar Alexander I abolished it. Although the monks could remain within the monastery walls, they could not accept candidates for monks. So, in the course of time, the community died out. The last of the monks, Fr Wilhelm Ulawski, died in 1855.
Later, for a short time, Reformed Franciscans looked after the monastery.
However, this did not last long, as the Russians expelled them from Jędrzejów for helping the participants in the January Uprising. It was then that a Russian male teachers’ seminary started its operation within the monastery walls. Towards the end of the 19th century a branch of the Holy Trinity Church was set up in the former abbey. In 1913, thanks to the bishop of Kielce Augustyn Losinski, an independent parish led by the diocesan clergy started.
Cistercians returned to their monastery after the World War II, thanks to the efforts of bishop Czesław Kaczmarek.
They came from their former branch – the abbey in Szczyrzyc. Initially, a dependent priory subordinate to Szczyrzyc was established, then in 1953 an independent priory, and finally in 1989 the monastery obtained the rank of an abbey. At present, the community numbers a dozen or so monks, and at its head is Abbot Rafał Ścibiorowski.
The above text is a translation of the Polish text from the Abbey’s website: https://jedrzejow.cystersi.pl/
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