Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec
ul. Benedyktyńska 37
Tyniec used to be a day’s journey from Kraków, today we reach it in less than an hour on a bus or on a bike, taking a beautiful cycle path. The charm and tranquillity of the place attract throngs of tourists and pilgrims alike. Amidst this silence and reflective prayer, the monks follow the motto of St Benedict: ora et labora…
Situated on a limestone promontory, the monastery looks more like a mediaeval fortress than a church. Little wonder: right from the start, the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec doubled as a fortress. It is highly likely that the area was inhabited by the Celts a thousand years before the Order of St Benedict arrived in the place. The first monks came here in the mid-11th century. Tyniec enjoyed plenty of favours from local rulers, many of whom were kings of Poland, and there are many arguments to support the claim that it was a medieval economic power. One of them is the nickname given to the abbot: “the abbot of a hundred villages”.
Although the church received stout fortifications in the 13th century, they could not save it from destruction: it was burnt down when the Tatars invaded the Polish lands. Its heyday came in the 15th and 16th centuries. In later years, the monastery was thoroughly rebuilt, and had the characteristic façade with two towers added. In 1816, that is during the era when Poland was partitioned, the Austrians dissolved the Order, and the Benedictines were forced to leave the Abbey. From that time on Tyniec changed hands many times, falling more and more into ruin. No one seemed to care for its fate until the Archbishop of Kraków, Prince Adam Stefan Sapieha, brought back the Benedictine Order from Belgium in 1939. One final time when the abbey acted as a fortress was in 1945, when much like in Monte Cassino, in southern Italy, which was defended by German forces against the Allies, the monastery likewise was held against the Red Army.
The only road into the Abbey leads through “the castle”, that is the 16th-century building of the abbot’s quarters. In the spacious courtyard behind it, the bygone abbots used to welcome eminent guests. The monastic complex includes a library that until the restoration completed in 2008 used to be known as the Great Ruin. Today it houses the Benedictine Institute of Culture. In its exhibition space, you can admire historical artefacts: fragments of Romanesque and Gothic stonework, and elements of the arcades of the original cloister. The Church of St Peter and St Paul situated within the monastery is a three-aisled basilica with baroque furnishing. Entering, spare a moment to look at the elaborate iron latch in the shape of a fish: one of the symbols of Christ.
St Peter and St Paul’s Church:
- gothic chancel,
- rococo high altar of black marble,
- baroque pulpit in the shape of a boat,
- 16-century murals presenting The Magi.
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