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Krakow’s Cistercian Abbey of Mogila

Mogila monastery, eight kilometers east of the Krakow royal castle, has remained the heart of the Cistercian order in Poland for nearly eight centuries. At the same time it has been a vital religious center, crucial to the spiritual life of the whole nation and the Krakow region in particular.

Mogila Cistercian Abbey of Krakow

Visiting the Mogila Abbey in Krakow.

Few ancient monuments in Poland can rival the eight-century-old Mogila Abbey for the historical value. Yet the Cistercian monastery in Krakow, the country’s most important, is spared from the attention of tourists and the place stays pleasantly quiet apart from the Catholic feasts.

The Mogila Abbey is situated in Krakow’s eastern Nowa Huta district and visitors may tour it along with other attractions in the area, such as ancient Kopiec Wandy mound, one of the city’s fabled barrows, and the communist architecture of Nowa Huta.

The abbey is easily accessible by public transport. There is a bus stop next to it at Klasztorna street and a tramline runs near by at Jana Pawla II avenue. Motorists may leave their vehicles on a little parking lot alongside Klasztorna street.

The Cistercian Abbey of Mogila, points of interest.

Apart from the core church and monastery the abbey’s compound consists of assorted buildings that date from various periods. The architecture doesn’t represent clear-cut styles as subsequent alterations have left their mark over past centuries. Most prominent structures are the basilica, monastery around a Gothic cloister, and the Renaissance abbot’s mansion of 1569.

Church of the Virgin Mary Assumed to Heaven and St. Vaclav /Kosciol Najswietszej Marii Panny Wniebowzietej i Sw. Waclawa/. The church dates back to the 13th century. One of the first brick buildings in the Malopolska province, it was an interesting mixture of Romanesque and Gothic features. The baroque frontal part and facade have been added in 1780, together with the vault of the nave. The present church interior reveals austerity typical for early Cistercian architecture. It is manifest in the chancel closed with a plain wall and a pair of ‘twin’ chapels on the right. The Gothic features of the interior include the main altarpiece of 1514 in the chancel and the 15th-century crucifix in a chapel on the left behind an iron grille of 1650. The Renaissance art is represented by Stanislaw Samostrzelnik’s outstanding frescos in the right-hand transept and one of the ‘twin’ chapels as well as the painting of circa 1530 on the forward wall of the chancel. The rest of the decor mostly dates to the Baroque of the 18th century. In 1970 Pope Paul VI has elevated the church to the rank of a minor basilica. 

Cistercian monastery. The monastery has adjoined the Church of the Virgin Mary Assumed to Heaven and St. Vaclav to the south since the 13th century. The oldest parts of the present quadrilateral structure are the 13th-century cellars of the west wing and ground floor of the east wing. Ground floors of the west and the south wings date back to the 14th century together with the Gothic refectory and cloister. 

Abbot's Palace. The Renaissance palace of 1569 abuts the monastery at its southeast corner. It incorporates the 15th-cenury Prior’s House. The baroque portal dates from the 17th century. 

History of the Cistercian abbey in Krakow.

The Mogila Abbey was founded in 1225 by Krakow bishop Iwo Odrowaz. It was located in the rural area west of the city, at the fork of the Wisla and Dlubnia rivers. In the Middle Ages the monastery was known as Clara Tumba, ‘Clear Tomb’ in Latin, after the ancient barrow situated less than a mile to the east. Also the Polish name of the abbey and the adjoining village, Mogila, translates as ‘tomb’.

The first Mogila monastery was destroyed by Mongols in 1241. In the 17th century it was demolished be Swedes who killed all its residents save two monks.

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