The Holy Trinity Church

The Franciscans

The December afternoon silence at Gdansk’s Holy Trinity Church gave me time to summarize the passing year, and to look back.   Summarizing of the passing year seems to have become a tradition; well it was just few hours before the New Year’s Eve. New – meaning the 2011 year.

And as the past 365 days of 2010 have been quite successful for me and my family, (what is the most important), so I could look a little further back. Right there where seen is only what we know from history.

The Franciscans…

Their gothic churches fascinate (what a cliché!). They fascinate mostly with the architecture, and also with the mystery. I mean the today’s mystery – resulting from the continuous amazement. For how possible could it be in today’s so consumptive and restless times to want to withdraw from the life and lock oneself in prayers. Generations before me probably thought the same and the next ones will also be puzzled by this question. However thanks to those who decided to close themselves to the earthly life – today we find some respite from the hustle and take shelter from the daily rush…

Such places giving relief in every aspect are undoubtedly: Holy Trinity Church in Gdansk (Danzig) and Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Torun (Thorn).

Both are wonderful, one might say, monumental buildings. G.H. once said she didn’t like Gothic buildings because they do not fit the frame of her camera … They don’t, they were built for the glory of God and to the memory of posterity.

Well, Gdansk’s church, or rather a monastery – is indeed worth a memory!

Below is a bit of the history of the monastery, but also in general the history of the Friars Minor in Pomerania:

“Already in the thirteenth century the Franciscans of the Czech-Polish Province arrived to Pomerania. They settled in Torun in 1239 and Chelmno in 1258. These monasteries soon passed to the Province of Saxony.

In the year 1282 the monastery was founded in Nowe on the Vistula River, in 1296 in Braniewo, in 1349 in Welow (I couldn’t find it on the map…), in 1364 in Wartenburg and finally in 1420 in Gdansk.

The newly elected Pope Martin V on October 9, 1419 gave the privilege to found the monastery in Gdansk. From the City Council the monks obtained a square in the district called Lastadia. In 1422, the construction of the monastery began. In the years 1422-1431 the church of The Lord’s Supper was built – the present great church choir. After the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Thirteen Years’ War, the monastery was under reconstruction and building of a great church took place. Work began in 1480. At the request of King Casimir between 1480-1484 St. Anna’s Church intended for Polish masses was built. At the same time in the years 1481-1514 east wing of the monastery was expanded. The construction of Holy Trinity Church began in 1514.

Under the influence of the Reformation and the decline of religious life, superior of the monastery Jan Rollau, without the permission of church authorities handed over the monastery and church in 1555, to the City Council, being at that time already entirely Protestant. A famous Academic Gymnasium was founded in the monastery; and it worked until 1817. The church was administered by the Lutherans and Calvinists.

Efforts to retrieve the Franciscan monastery and church in the years 1560 and 1596 failed, although the Polish kings supported the monks in their efforts. The effects of religious novelties were already so strong, that even kings have to take them into consideration.

To emphasize that they are still the rightful owners of the church and monastery in Gdansk – the Franciscans – were accustomed to appoint every secretary of the Province a guardian of Gdansk.

In the years 1638 – 1695 a half timbered house was constructed (nowadays it is the only such in whole Gdańsk. The last Polish preacher in the years 1798 – 1817 there was a famous pastor Christoph Coelestin Mrongovius.”

This was from the Franciscan site – unfortunately it is only in Polish… And unfortunately it is not the best historical site ever. Also very vaguely and somehow shortly the Gdansk Academic Gymnasium was mentioned on their website.

And yet it was a school with excellent reputation. It was not the first such school in Prussia – the first one was Elbing Academic Gymnasium. But together with the third such school in these areas – Academic Gymnasium in Torun – they all created a system which guaranteed a very high level of education.

Today the Holy Trinity Church in Gdansk still awaits it’s 5 minutes. Precisely – it waits for funds. The repairs are still ongoing… All we can have now is hope, that the next generations will still be able to hide inside from everyday’s rush and haste. And we can only hope that the most beautiful gothic gable in the city will survive and will still please the eyes of the next generations.

Below the most beautiful gothic gables in Gdańsk:



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