In the past, in the area of the Westpomeranian Region, knightly and priestly orders flourished that were famous all over the Europe. These were the Cistercians, Templar Knights and the Knights of St. John. They left many historic monuments, which can be visited and admired. Everyone is welcome!
The Cistercians arrived in Westpomerania in the 13th Century. They brought with them education, culture, medicine, craftsmanship and agriculture. In what is now the Westpomeranian Region, seven nunneries (Cedynia,
The Reformation which spread through the Duchy of Pomerania in the 16th Century due to the efforts of Duke Bogusław X, resulted in the dissolution of the Cisterian monasteries. These were then taken over by the duchy. The Cistercian buildings that remained to this day are located in Bierzwinek (the west wing basement, parts of the gallery and the lower levels of the east and south wings), Cedynia (west wing; currently a hotel and restaurant), Koszalin (the aisle body of the present-day Holy Trinity Church), Kołbacz (the Cistercian church, the Converses’ House, as well as the Abbot’s House), Marianowo (west wing and east wing relics, in addition to two Gothic portals in the convent church) and Pełczyce (the west wing and part of the monasterial basements).
A description of the towns and villages of the Westpomeranian Region situated along the Cistercian Trail include:
The history of the abbey in Bierzwnik dates back to the turn of the 13th and 14th Centuries. The documents of 1286 and 1294 describe why the site was chosen, as well as the foundation and endowment of the monastery by the Margraves of Brandenburg. It also details the experiences of the first monks. In expanding the so-called ‚New March’, the Margraves of Brandenburg, during the course of their conflicts with the Westpomeranian dukes, violated the property of the Kołbacz Cistercians. In order to compensate for the damages inflicted upon the Kołbacz monastery, they decided to fund a monastic branch on the eastern frontier of their new lands.
The monks arrived in Bierzwnik on the 11th of June 1294. The abbey’s location was chosen in order to empower the local society and improve the economy of this marshy and forested area. The new office was called „Mary’s Forest”, a Christian name for the Starzycki Forest. Bierzwnik was named after the lake in the Starzycki Forest, after 1954.
With time, the financial condition of the monastery deteriorated. Indeed, in 1430, Abbot Jacob considered relocating the branch within Prussia. However, before this could occur, the Polish-Czech crusade made in-roads into the New March during the Polish-Teutonic war (1431-1435), and the Cistercian property was robbed. In order to compensate for the loss, new acquisitions were made with the aid of the Teutonic order. In 1454, the abbey and the entire New March was taken over by the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg.
From all of the original monastic buildings, the lower level of the east and south wings has remained, as has almost intact elements of the basements and gallery from the west wing. The interior of the east wing retains the unchanged layout of the mediaeval rooms: the sacristy adjacent to the church, a library room and a former chapterhouse.
In the monastic interiors, there are many precious architectural details, the most interesting of which is the complex of vault support that is decorated with ornamental motifs, with human and devil faces and with an ox head decorated with a crown. In the church, under the presbytery, there is a burial tomb, most likely connected with a donation made by Hasso Von Wedel, from 1305.
Near the building, around the monastic hill, an education path has been laid out with information plates about the life and times of the mediaeval monks.
Currently, it is the Christ the King parish church. Inside, there is a Gothic crucifix – probably from the monastic church and a gallery, known as the „Cistercian nuns’ gallery”.
Still in existence to this day, in Kołbacz, are the basements and ground floor of the western part of the abbey (the so-called „Converses’ House”), the Abbot’s House (built in the first half of the 14th Century), as well as two utility buildings belonging to this period (a barn and a sheep-shed). The church itself is maintained by the Roman-Catholic Sacred Heart of Christ parish.
f) Koszalin – in Koszalin, one can only find the relics belonging to the Cistercian nuns in the so-called „castle chapel”, and the church that once belonged to the Cistercian nuns is now an orthodox church. The Abbey that belonged to the Cistercian nuns existed here between 1278 and 1569. It was funded by the Bishop of Kamień, Herman von Gleichen, and was located within the town walls. With time, due to the reception of numerous grants, the abbey became one of the richest in Pomerania.
The Cistercian nuns of Koszalin were the patrons of the chapel built in the 13th Century, on Chełmska Mountain, and took care of the pilgrims. The oldest sanctuary in town, the cathedral church in Koszalin, built in 1300-1333, was also under the patronage of the Cistercian nuns, and the parish priests were, at the same time, the monastic chaplains. Currently, the chapel and the Sanctuary of „Our Lady of the Three Marvels” on Chełm Mountain, in Koszalin, is run by the Virgin Mary Sisters of the Schoenstatt Institute.
h) Pełczyce – located in the Pełczyce municipality, in the Choszczno county. A church can be found in the southern part of this town. This was part of the Cistercian abbey nunnery in Pełczyce, founded by the Margrave of Brandenburg, Albrecht III, before 1290. The monastic layout was established on the eastern elevated shore of Lake Panieńskie. Surviving today is the west wing of the monastery, dated back to 14th /15th Century. In the ground floor of this, visitors can see beautiful details. The quality of this work, and the styling found within the vaulting indicates a connection with the Cistercian architecture in Kołbacz. In the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, there are 13th-Century relics hidden behind and within the 15th and 18th-Century layers, and the Cistercian nunnery in Pełcz was one of the oldest centres of the Corpus Christi cult in this part of Europe. Today, the west wing of the monastery is owned by the Agricultural Agency, while the surviving church belongs to the Roman-Catholic Parish of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
i) Szczecin – The Cistercian abbey nunnery existed here between the years 1243 and 1539. Its founder was the Szczecin and Uznam Duke Barnim, and his wife, Marianna. The Holy Mother and St. Magdalene Monastery of the Cistercian nuns was located just outside the town, between the town moat and the Oder River shore. They also run a hospital in the town. Unfortunately, no monastic buildings have remained to this day.
j) Wolin – is located in the Wolin municipality, in the Kamień county. There was a Cistercian abbey nunnery here, founded in 1288 by the Szczecin Dukes, and supported by Duke Bogislaw IV. In 1305, the Wolin abbey also established a priory in Krumn. The monastery in Wolin existed until the early 16th Century, but no monastic buildings have remained to this day. Traces of the nuns’ stay can be found in the rebuilt St. Nicolas Gothic church in Wolin, as visitors can find within the church, a sepulchral plate belonging to the order. In addition, one can find a preserved Cistercian tombstone in the churchyard.
In the National Museum in Szczecin, visitors can find many elements of the furnishings of the Westpomeranian Cistercian monasteries. The museum is well worth a visit.
For more information, please visit www.szlakcysterski.org.
Towns and villages of the Westpomeranian Region that are connected with the legends of the Templar Knights are:
The Chwarszczany Project Team of the Pomeranian Museum in Myślibórz.
Tourist Centre – Local Tourist Organisation
Rynek Street 1
tel. +48 94 / 375 47 90
fax. +48 94 / 375 47 90
The Knights of St. John
The Knights of St. John arrived in what is now the Westpomeranian Region in the 12th Century, and they initially established a commandery in 1186, in Stargard Szczeciński. In 1775, their influence was still being felt and a Great Priory was established in Poland. In 1797, Emperor Pavel I joined it and a new Russian Priory into one congregation (formally dissolved in 1817). However, the tradition of affiliation with the order of the Knights of St. John has survived to this day in many noble families, in a form of a honorary title.
Stare Drawsko – castle ruins can be found here. Until the 13th Century, the county was ruled by the Templar Knights, then, from the end of the 13th Century, by the Order of St. John. Around 1360, they built a castle here, on the site of a former Slavic settlement. In 1366, King Casimir III the Great acquired these lands. The castle itself has been in ruins since 1759, when the invading Russian army burnt it down. Although partially destroyed, it has now been stabilised, and Drahim Castle is open to the public. In addition to the ruins, one can see attempts to re-enact life in the old castle. During the summer season, knightly tournaments are held here too.
Drahim Museum in Stare Drawsko