Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This material reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

Trzebnica Church

Country: Poland
Century: 1200 - The 13th Century
Art Period:

Gothic Architecture

Artist / Artwork Description:

Early Gothic in Poland

The Saint Jadwiga’s Chanel by the Female Cysters’ Church in Trzebnica- 1269-1275 – a gothic architecture of the building and the Roman Style timpanons.

Synthetic Chronology:

In Poland Since the coronation of the first King Boleslaw Chrobry (1025)- Mieszko’s son (who was the Piast Dynasty’s protoplast, however without the crown) until building the Cysters’ Chapel (1275) in Trzebnica there passed 250 years. Unfortunately Since 1138 the Piasts’ lands were devoid of one governmental centre (which meant- the Kingdom).Despite that fact, they were still remaining under the influence of the Christian civilization and in there developed architecture and art- firstly in the Roman Style, and soon later in Gothic.
The XIII century is the period of constituting the new gothic architecture all over the Polish land. Its intensive development did continue throughout the XIV and XV centuries. The object here described was founded just in the very beginning of that process.

The Context:

On the Piasts’ lands of the X and XI century, the stony architecture was just standing at the beginning of its progress. The appearing buildings were serving to the purposes of the new religion, they were to witness about the nobility and majesty of the governance and had to have a protective character. They were set up in a form of a consolidated chuck of a round building, possessing a sacral mood and the dukes’ mansions featuring the Roman Style’s recognition. There were also fund the first monasteries and the Roman Style collegiates. In the course of time, they became fulfilled of the more expensive architectural sculpture, and in the XII century those lands were signified by numerous mature Roman Style buildings, established first of all by the Cyster’s order.
The Boleslaw Krzywousty’s Testimony caused the Poland’s division into districts (1138), and In the beginning of the XIII century the dukes from Silesia and the Great Poland made efforts to reunify the Kingdom. Slowly, the New city model was arising, and there was coming the process of establishing the Church’s independence from the secular governance. Significantly enough, a dense net of monasteries and parish churches appeared then. There got more rich the duke’s courts. In architecture, the leading position was on the side of the Silesia buildings (vide: the Palatinum and the Chapel in Legnica, the Cathedral in Wroclaw), and soon after the buildings in the Little Poland. They were created by the newcomers from Saxony, Burgundy, Italy and Denmark- the Cysters: in Henrykow (1227), Trzebnica(1202), Jędrzejow (till 1210), Koprzywnica (1218-1239), Sulejow (till 1232), Wachock (1st half of the XIII c.), Lubiaz (1175). The beggars’ orders were also establishing their monasteries, and they also were coming form outside the Polish territory :the St Frank’s Order from Prague to Cracow (1237), Wroclaw (before 1236 – 1237), Zawichost (1255), Glogow (before 1229) and Poznan. Z Italii - The St. Dominic’s Order from Italy to Cracow (1222), Sandomierz (1226), Wroclaw (1226), Elblag (1238), Poznan (1242).The orders were invited by rich governors, who were the founders of their order’s hostels. The Monastery of the Female Cysters in Trzebnica was founded by the Duke Henry the Beardy and his wife- the Duchess Jadwiga from the Bavarian of Andechs in 1202. From the very beginning it was to be just a women’s. The foundations were the result of both religious and artistic aspirations, typical of the Silesian dukes of those times. They were similar to the tendencies appearing in all the Europe; where the most important was the supported position by the Pope, and the eternal memory among the inferiors.
In 1269 there was started building of the special chapel dedicated to the Duchess Jadwiga, who was dead AT that moment, who was just blessed by the Church (1267. The Chapel was set up on the Eastern side of the Female Cysters’ Church, constituting that way the whole monastery complex. The process of building was finished In 1275. Its founder was a Duchess’ grandson- Wladyslaw Piast who was then the Archbishop of Salzburg.


In the XIII century Europe, there were present numerous Roman style buildings, mainly of sacral sort. Magnificent monasteries, collegiates, churches and cathedrals, the residential places of various orders and rich Bishops. They were mainly built of stone or of a brick. There started to organize systematically more and more ordered structure of living areas- later the cities. The most magnificent of them were really very famous. The architecture was established in the selected locations and the designers’ brains. The ideas’ disposals were on the side of the orders’ Grand Masters, and the phase of the ideas’ execution was under control of the specialized craftsmen.
The Middle Ages Europe was besides the place of evolving theological considerations, often competitive. That eagerness for making perfect and ordering the elaborated ideas resulted in the very essential for the Middle Ages Epoch- the Theological Summa, whereas within the architectural frames there appeared then the product almost perfect- the Gothic Cathedral.
The first usage of the gothic cross rib (a very important element of the gothic construction had a place in the North of France- in Saint- Denis. It was a masterpiece made by the Opat Suger. The evolving construction ideas understood as a Progress in creating the elements of the gothic cathedral’s focus based on the cross bow together with the cross rib had been crossing before also in the places of Normandy (Lessay), England (Durham) and Rhineland (Spira). However, in Saint- Denis there were formed the gothic style’s rules.
In the XIII century in Europe there were ready the gothic cathedrals- in Amiens, Reims and Chartres-in France, in Magdeburg, Freiburg, Strassburg, Naumburg and Bamberg, and in Westminster, Canterbury and Salisbury- in England.

National Comparative:

All the monks’ orders which were coming to Poland, introduced a new kind of architecture. The Cysters’ orders set up monasteries of a relatively crude chunk without towers and decorations. The orders’ task was manifesting their simplicity, modesty and their obedience towards the local Bishops. Zakon bowiem cechowały ubóstwo, prostota i poddanie się władzy miejscowych biskupów. The Cysters contributed to the civilization’s progress by founding schools , teaching agriculture and craft. Symptomatically enough, they were rarely livers in the cities .The Monastery Church In Trzebnica which as regards experts’ assumptions was associated with the Master Jacob’s influence (1203-1240) possessed a conservative planning of the building – contrary to the Cysters’ buildings ( it referred e.g. to the so- called combined style and the shutting of the Eastern part by 3 apses and introducing the 3 naves vault with very remarkable set of sculptures was very spectacular, whereas taking into consideration the commonly set Cysters’ regular designs.
The Chapel of St. Jadwiga which is the object of our interest (1269 – 1275) is the most modern, it grows out from the trends evidencing in the workshops in Saxony. The rectangular inside, shut in on the 3 sides is covered by the cross- rib firmament, supported on the slender brackets. Big, high windows fulfilled with precious hand- works al most completely eliminated the wall. From outside the building was encompassed by the high batters. That makes an impression of the glass skeleton construction, which in turn makes it close to the classical ideal of the French Gothic.
The Cysters were however also constructing their Building in the Little Poland and in Pomerania. The monasteries set up there were scarcely different than those from Silesia, since the path of the knowledge concerning building was crossing either from Clairvaux, or from Marimond, which means from the different cities of the Cysters’ pattern monasteries. The best preserved churches in the Little Poland are the churches in Wachock, Sulejow and others. The development of architecture, also in Poland, was accompanied by the development of sculptures, mainly connected with the environments of Saxony and Hessia.
There were founded big sets of the architectural sculpture In Wroclaw and Trzebnica. They showed off tendencies directed towards Naturalism. The climax attainment of that trend was the set of sculptures just In the Chapel of Trzebnica. They linked together Naturalism with the exposed, expressive Dramatism. Other sculptures of that kind, but referring to Knight Classic Genre are Madonna of Lokietek In Wislica (about 1280), the Statue of the Duchess Salomea In Glogow (about 1290), the Grave Statue of the Duke Henry IV from Wroclaw (about 1300).

Artistic Analysis:

The Chapel of St. Jadwiga In Trzebnica Has a Spender form, namely that is Verticalism- a feature of mature cathedral. That phenomenon was giving an expression of a light weight to the whole of the building and emphasized its monumental majesty. The repetition of supporting construction and slender window holes with beautiful hand- works constituted together a very elegant and noble rhythm.
The Chapel was built of stone and it was covered by a 2 layers roof. The followed adding of the innovatory architectural parts to the older objects was a phenomenon typical of the architecture In Poland. Nothing strange then that inside the Chapel it was set a very rich baroque scope of sculptures. However a careful observer Carnot Lose the identity of the gothic Visio of the chunk’s founding. The Roman Style church had been standing there before that Chapel opening the Gothic Era In Poland appeared. And that Roman Style space took additional gothic elements that way. The described sculptures are the stages from the 3 preserved timpanons (one of which has two sides) . On the portal of the western facade there is a scene of the King David playing the harp and Betsabe. He is sitting on the throne, in a little “sporty” pose, Betsabe is listening to the melody and the servant lady is standing behind her. We find a realism of that presentation, decorative treating of the clothes and the both thrones, and a kind of a plants’ binding on the arch of the archivolta, closing the stony composition. All the structure gives needless to say a magnificent artistic result. The second timpanon presents joining two themes: the Crucifixion and the St Mary’s Coronation. It is symptomatic and it is to emphasize the St Mary’s participation in the Jesus’ s Victory and Salvation. In the scene interesting for us, the Peace is Winding, and it is connected with a lyrical sensitivity. The two mentioned characters are keeping their heads towards each others, and they are accompanied by the Angels kneeling on their sides. The whole is closed in a rich plants’ formation on the archivolta’s arches, and in its lower part shutting the timpanon’s triangle.
All those details of sculptures evidence a delicate treating of the stony form and prove widely the mastery of the artist. However, they are artistically and historically located in the frames of the Roman Style’s canon.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

The cities and locations corresponding both to the church an secular authorities in the XIII century Europe were significant because of a very developer architecture both in the form of chunk and the architectural detail- in comparison to those founded in the land of the current Poland When in the West of Europe there were founded very detailed, soaring classic gothic cathedrals (in Chartres 1194-1260, in Reims – the beginning of 1211, Notre Dame 1200-1250), in Poland there were set up very monotonous, crude Roman Style chunks.
The biggest influence on such buildings had the German art., however in Germany there had been then finished the gothic cathedral: in Naumburg and in Bamberg The full of mastery sculpture on the portal of the Cathedral of Reims presenting St. Mary and St. Elizabeth in the scene of the Visit wins in the comparison with the bas- relief of the portal in Trzebnica. The latter presented King David playing harp and Betsabe (1230-1240). Other portal presented Madonna on the throne (about 1240), and the double presented the scene of Crucifixion and St. Mary’s Coronation. Those three bas-reliefs featuring very high artistic and quality (also within the symbolic domain) were still settled in the convention of the traditional Roman Style’s formal disposition, although apparently evolving towards gothic confirmed solutions.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

The Middle Ages authors are anonymous for us It is said rather abort their locations and their monastery workshops. A progress of a single artist in the beginning of the XIII century is impossible to recreate.
The builders of the Monastery in Trzebnica for the girls of good provenience started working soon after the foundation’s nomination- just in 1203.The monastery church itself as a part of the complex was built in 1240, the works over the chapel started in 1269, which meant the 30 years’ interval. Those works were finished in 1275. Probably, there was put forward a kind of a resolution referring to converting the whole complex into the novel Late-Roman Style.


The Chapel of St. Jadwiga is the breakthrough building for Poland, Since it is the first classic gothic building here. The vertical form and the soaring shape of the chunk made it different from its counterparts appearing during the XIII century. The Chapel of Trzebnica reflects rarely appearing in Poland resemblance to the type of the French Gothic despite the fact of the enumerated findings of the Saxon provenience. The attractiveness of the sculptures from the timpanons located in the older church constitutes the everlasting value and arouses a kind of very positive emotions. The history of the Piast Princes connected with the Chapel, the foundation of the Female Cysters’ Monastery itself and the Legend of St.Jadwiga of Silesia (the founder of the Monastery) make up a context reviving that masterpiece.
The still existing sacral complex, the Female Cysters’ Church and the adhering Chapel of St Jadwiga can be a very interesting research material for a scientist whose discipline is the art appeared after 1200, the domain of seeking for interrelations and co- influences within various scopes of human existence: it means- the history of the Latin Civilization, the Regional History with special appearances of Religion and Art.


1. Author: Janusz Kębłowski, Title:” Dzieje sztuki polskiej”(„The History of the Polish Art.”), Publication: „Arkady”, Warsaw, 1987

2. Author: Janusz Keblowsk, Title: “Polska sztuka gotycka” (“The Polish Gothic Art”), Publication: Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe (Artistic and Film Publishers), Warsaw, 1983
3. Author:Adam Socko, Tomasz Ratajczak, Piotr Korduba, Title: “100 cudów architektury w Polsce” (“100 Wonders of Architecture in Poland), Publication:”Publikat” S.A., Poznan
4. Author: Aleksander Gieysztor, Jerzy Pietrusinski, Title: “Sztuka polska przedromańska i romańska do schyłku XIII wieku” (“The pre-Roman and Roman Art in Poland until the End of the XIII Century”)
5. Author: Andrzej Krauze , Title: “Sztuka Sakralna w Polsce: Architektura” (“The Sacral Art in Poland: Architecture”, Publication:”Ars Christiana”, 1956
6. Author: Tadeusz Broniewski, Title: “ Śląsk w zabytkach sztuki: Trzebnica” (“Silesia of the Art Monuments:Trzebnica”), Publication: “Ossolineum” , Wroclaw, Warsaw, Cracow, Gdansk, 1973
7. Author: Stanislaw Lam, Title: “Polska. Jej dzieje i kultura od czasów najdawniejszych aż do chwili obecnej” (“Poland: Its History and Culture since the Oldest Time until the Present Time”, Publication: “Art- Kielce” Publishers, Kielce, 1992
8. Author:Jan Korcz, Title: “Miasto św. Jadwigi Śląskiej” (“The City of St. Jadwiga of Silesia” in magazine: “Miejsca Święte” (“Holly Places”)no.10/22/1988

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 37_800px-Poland_Trzebnica_-_sanctuary_of_Hedwig.jpg

Description of the material:

The source presents the characteristic image of the object as a natural place of the cultural complexity.

Contextualisation Of the source:

The place is presented as a case in point of the domain wholly participating in opening our national consciousness towards the important question of the architectural, functional discoveries within the compound solutions (here according the sacral formations).

Interpretation of the source:

The place illuminates "practical and crowning glory" of coherent ideas in the stream of religious dedications, approving of the versatile, in a natural way commonly shared public significations and references as regards the sphere of the religion and the sacral formation.

File name: 37_jadwiga_slaska_2.jpg

Description of the material:

The source presents the effigies of the holly personages, their cultural implications and the architectural/ artistical displaying the chosen expressions and codes of recognition.

Contextualisation Of the source:

The context is the settlement of the figures in the sacral objects and their fulfilling of the given space suggesting the skillful, smart composition of the vivid, exceptional monuments.

Interpretation of the source:

The sacral objects still invite us to come across their performance in a cultural, academic way and show off their introductory adherence to the epoch. They distribute their smartness, recognized moral, allegorical spirit. Moreover, they level up through observations and studies their inspiring linkage to the engaged audience.

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Michelangelo - Copyright 2008 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

Valid XHTML 1.1Valid CSS!Materiale fotografico: © Pavel Losevsky |