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cistercian Abbey in Krzeszow

The church and abbey of the Cistercian Order in Krzeszow are rated among the finest and most precious monuments of Baroque architecture in Lower Silesia. Krzeszow has a long history as a place of worship and a centre of religious activity. Benedictine monks settled here as early as mid-13th century, and towards the end of the century, owing to the foundation of Bolko I the Strict, the Duke of Jawor, the Cistercians were brought from nearby Henrykow to the newly built monastery.

Thanks to the Duke's landed endowment, the Cistercians came into possession of vast landed estate comprising - at its heyday - several dozen villages and two towns, Chelmsko and Lubawka. The Cistercian Order was a thriving community in the second half of the 16th century and 17th century, when - after the destruction of the Hussite Wars - the monks managed to regain the land they had lost and restore the estate's economy. The monastery was again turned into a hub of religious life, and the mausoleum of the Piast dukes of Swidnica and Jawor was established in the church. After the Silesian wars, in 1741 Krzeszow was incorporated into the territory of Prussia, which resulted in a gradual loss in significance. In 1810, under the edict of King Frederick III of Prussia the monastery was dissolved and its property seized by the State.

After World War I, the Benedictines resettled in the deserted monastery and their order was again raised to an abbey; during World War II, the monastery was suspended again, and its buildings seized by the Nazi authorities and used as a transitional camp or place of confinement. Towards the end of the war, the collection of the Prussian State Library was moved from Berlin to the abbey. After the Red Army entered the region of Lower Silesia, the collection was taken over by Polish authorities and deposited at the Jagiellonian University's library in Krakow.

After the war, Krzeszow Abbey was resettled by Benedictine nuns from Lwow while the Cistercians returned to this place in 1970.

The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in the first half of the 18th century, is rated today as one of the best known and finest places of worship in Lower Silesia, primarily on account of the picture of Our Lady of Grace, in the main altar. The picture, painted in tempera on larch wooden panel, is certainly one of Krzeszow's most valuable and famous relics; it is the oldest image of the Mother of God in Poland (dating back to the 13th century) and one of the oldest in Europe. In 1997, a solemn coronation of the picture was performed by Pope John Paul II, and a year later the church was raised by the Pope to the dignity of a Minor Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Cistercian monastery, together with the Church of St. Joseph from the second half of the 17th century, the so-called guest house of the Abbott and auxiliary facilities form a unique architectural complex that is undoubtedly of European rank. Its individual buildings constitute a stylistically harmonious and, at the same time, a very functional whole.

The coins feature, first of all, the late Baroque facade of the church decorated with sculptures by Ferdinand Maximilian Brokoff. Such presentation highlights the beauty and grand style of the sacral architecture and the intensity of the Baroque ornaments. Particularly impressive is Immaculata, a sand sculpture of Sacred Immaculate Mary, the patron of the universal church, which is a clear reference to the medieval picture in the main altar.

Wojciech Tygielski