Presbytery, Szczyrzyc Abbey

The fourth cloister leads to the presbytery of the monastery’s church. The central feature of the church is the 17th-century altar with a miraculous painting of the Szczyrzycka Mother of God. The monastery chronicle stolen by the Austrian oppressors in 1794 has not survived, and it is not known how the painting found its way into the monastery or who painted it. It probably dates back to between 1550 and 1600. Painted with temperas on a lime board 131 x 93 cm in size, the painting has some features of the Gothic style and of the Italian Mannerism. It has a great artistic value. Until the Second Vatican Council, every day at dawn the monks would  first say special prayers to the Mother of God in front of the painting and then offer the first mass of the day. The oldest entry in the Inventory indicates that the image of the Szczyrzyc Mother of God had once had a silver gown, but that the Swedes stole it in 1705. After Poland regained independence in 1918, new gowns and crowns were placed on the image by Cardinal Adam Sapieha on 28 August 1939. They are an expression of the cult of the image, especially in the case of pilgrims from Silesia. The painting was crowned with papal crowns on 19 August 1984 on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the establishment of the monastery (in 1234). On both sides of the presbytery are 19th-century monastic stalls in which the monks say their prayers seven times a day. Paintings depicting daily life of the Cistercians hang above that stalls. There is an inscription to the left, above the polychromes: ‘Sic Deus vult’, which refers to the second crusade advocated both by Pope Eugene III, a student of St. Bernard, and by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. To the right is a polychrome with an inscription stating ‘Ora et Labora’. These paintings present the daily life of Cistercian monks, their prayers and work. The ceiling displays a beautiful floral polychrome by Jan Bukowski. He was a painter, illustrator and stained-glass painter associated with the Young Poland movement. On the side walls there is a polychrome made in the 1960s.

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