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The Former Benedictine Monastery on Święty Krzyż Mountain

Situated in the eastern part of the Łysogóry Mountains, the highest range of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, the former Benedictine monastery on Święty Krzyż (literally Holy Cross) Mount, thanks to its historical and religious value, is a monument of particular significance for Polish culture and national heritage. Benedictine tradition, as recorded by Polish chronicler Jan Długosz, attributes the foundation of the abbey to Boleslaus the Brave in 1006. Contemporary historians postpone the date of the monastery’s foundation to the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Prince Boleslaus the Wrymouth. At the beginning of the 14th century, the relics of the Holy Cross were donated to the abbey, making this place the most important and oldest sanctuary on Polish soil, as well as a pilgrimage destination for both Polish rulers and common people.

For centuries, the Święty Krzyż Abbey has promoted spiritual and intellectual culture, priding itself on one of the most magnificent libraries in Poland. It was in a 15th-century codex kept here that the famous Kazania Świętokrzyskie [The Holy Cross Sermons], the oldest relic of Polish writing, was discovered.

The Benedictines of Święty Krzyż Mount led a lively pastoral activity, developed education and were involved in herbal medicine. The glorious history of the abbey was interrupted by its dissolution in 1819. The priceless collections and equipment were taken away and looted, and the monastery buildings began to fall into ruin. Another blow to the abbey was the establishment of a strict regime prison within its walls by Russia, one of the partitioning powers. It survived until the Second Republic of Poland. In 1936, the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate arrived at Święty Krzyż and undertook the effort to rebuild the church and the monastery premises. The work was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. The monastery was bombed and the German occupiers set up a prisonerof- war camp in the prison buildings. After the war, the work of reconstruction was restarted.

Today, the Sanctuary of the Relics of the Holy Cross attracts almost 300,000 pilgrims and tourists annually. In addition to pastoral activities, its walls host scientific symposia, concerts, occasional exhibitions and meetings. In 2017, the site was awarded the honourable title of ‘Monument of History’.

Fr. Krzysztof Jamrozy OMI