Kalisz – Kościelec Kaliski – Dzierzbin – Stare Miasto – Konin – Kazimierz Biskupi – Strzelno – Kruszwica
Despite the fact that during the 11th-13th century the Konin district was located in a distance from the Wielkopolska power centres, it maintained numerous unique evidences of Romanesque architecture and art, which shall not be met in other parts of this Polish Kingdom’s province, in the country or even Europe. Seeing them significantly enriches everything that we can see on the most important and the most widely known Piast Trail. These objects include mainly the sacred Romanesque buildings in Stare Miasto near Konin, Kazimierz Biskupi, Kościelec near Koło and the Konin road post, an object, which is unique within the European scale. Moreover, two penitential crosses, in Konin and in Licheń, have been preserved.
Fragments of historical landscape with few preserved Romanesque objects and other objects dating back to the 11th-13th century most impressively illustrate the beginnings of our statehood and the Polish culture. They indicate the early mediaeval trail leading from Kalisz through Konin to Kruszwica, which is mentioned on the note on the Konin road post dated 1151, located here by Peter, the Palatine.
From Kalisz-Zawodzie, where once there was a trade settlement (the so-called town located on the Polish law) we move on the trail leading us in the past, as far as the mid 12th century. Here, in the city of prince Mieszko III, there once was a St. Paul the Apostle collegiate church, where – according to Jan Długosz (died 1480) the body of Mieszko, the prince of Wielkopolska, the son of king Bolesław Krzywousty (Boleslaus the Wry-mouthed, died 1202) was laid.
Kościelec Kaliski is the first stop of our travel. This is a village where provostry of the Benedictine monastery in Tyniec was created, a monastery strongly connected with the convents of this order in Lubiń near Kościan and Mogilno near Gniezno, as well as provostry in Uniejów.
Stare Miasto is and old trade settlement (town located on the Polish law), which was developed into a city of Konin, located on the Magdeburg law in the mid of the 13th century. Here, during many years - until the erection of the king’s castle in the 14th century – the princes’ residence was located, and then non-city prefects managing one of the richest crown lands in Wielkopolska.
St. Peter and Paul parish church, for ages named the matrix of the St. Bartholomew the Apostle parish church in Konin, is a relic of the past related with Konin. It was erected at the end of the 12th century or at the beginning of the 13th century. First written remarks concerning this church date back to the middle of the 14th century.
During the development of the church taking place in 1907 an empora (a place, where kings sat during religious celebrations) and two towers were destroyed. It was then, when the Romanesque church was incorporated – as a chapel – into the building of the current temple and lost all of its original character.
Luckily survived relics maintained the old magnificent Romanesque portal decorated with symbolic presentations of various persons and Christ. Above the southern window, near the presbytery we can see signs of a solar clock, probably one of the oldest in Wielkopolska. The walls of the new church contain a Romanesque tomb plate with a symbol of the Tree of Life. Similar plates, however, much smaller ones, were preserved in the parish church in Królików (Konin district, Grodziec municipality). They are also known as relics of St. Paul’s collegiate church in Kalisz.
Another stage of this part of the Romanesque Trail ends in Konin. Near the St. Bartholomew church a Romanesque road post is preserved, dating back to 1151, located here by Peter, the Palatine, and indicating halfway on an important trade route leading from Kalisz to Kruszwica. It is commonly believed that centuries ago, the post was a pagan cult object.
The writing on the post says – in English translation:
In the year 1151, the year of Our Lord’s incarnation
on the Kalisz-Kruszwica route here almost mid point of the road
indicated by the justice formula
which was ordered to be made here by Peter, the Palatine
and carefully divided the road in half
to be remembered, and let each of the travellers
ask God for grace.
Roku wcielenia Pana Naszego 1151
do Kalisza z Kruszwicy tu prawie punkt środkowy drogi
wskazuje to formuła sprawiedliwości,
którą kazał tu uczynić komes palatyn Piotr
i staranne też przepołowił tę drogę
aby o nim pamiętał, niech raczy każdy podróżny
modlitwą prosić Boga o łaskę.
[Polish translation by Teresa Dunin Wąssowicz, Mówią Wieki 1973, No. 6.]
The above-mentioned noble man, the palatine (governor) – a noble court dignitary is probably the comes Peter Wszeborowic, dignitary related with the district of Kujawy during the reign of Mieszko II the Old, prince of Wielkopolska. He proves to be the certificate of the old register related with the city of Konin, older than the one stated by historiography. Konin – as it is indicated by the place of erecting the Road Post, must have already played an important role in the trade exchange within the cross-border trade routes.
From Konin, we move along to Kazimierz Biskupi, former city related with bishops of Lublin, located in the second half of the 13th century. The tradition connects this place with the death of Five Martyr Brothers, murdered in the night from the 10th to 11th November 1003, including two barons, John and Benedict, disciples of St. Romuald from the monastery in Pereum, located in Pad backwaters, as well as three Poles (Slaves): Isaac, Matthew and Cristin, their servant. The cult of first saint Poles (Isaac, Matthew, Cristin) was known here as early as in the middle of the 12th century, and it can be even dated back to the end of the 12th century – as it is suggested by the preserved sources. Due to a huge interest of the worshippers it survived until today, and the erected city of Kazimierz, known under the name of Kazimierz Biskupi from the 20th century, became an important sanctuary within the area of Wielkopolska at the beginning of the 14th century. It influenced, among others, the area of Strzelno, Trzemeszno, Gniezno, Września, Słupca, Ląd and Jarocin. The Franciscan brothers – the Observants, who were brought here in the beginning of the 16th century, and the Cameldolian monks from Bieniszew (1663) actively agitated the emanation of the cult within the area of the Polish country. The mentioned brothers maintained close contacts with monastic houses of other rules and simultaneously maintained their long lasting throughout the centuries, until these days.
The parish church of St. Martin from Tours, once the patrimony of St. Martin from Tours and the Five Martyr Brothers, erected, according to Jan Długosz (died 1480), on the place of brother Matthew’s hermitage, is a valuable relic of the Romanesque architecture.
The building of the sanctuary in Kazimierz perfectly shows its turbulent past, described not only with the architectonical elements (portal), signs illegible for the common people, marks and numerous traces of development in the beginning of the 16th century and the middle of the 19th century. This past was described in the aspect of the brick wall, size of bricks, manner of laying the Romanesque stones in the part of the presbytery, signs of weapon sharpening and the so-called “penance holes” remained after kindling and consecrating fire. These mysterious signs inspired the local community to create numerous legends, the oldest of which concern the coming of Italian hermits into the Polish land in the beginning of the 11th century and their connections with Cameldolian monks from the Crown Mountain (Monte Orone in Italy).
What is unique on the Polish land are the two penitential crosses, one of which creates a part of the brick wall of the St. Bartholomew’s church in Konin, whereas the second cross was placed in the chapel in Licheń, after it has been moved from Grąblin and after sanding (this process destroyed the cross). Penitential crosses are related with the expiation of people, who committed a crime. They are a token of penance of criminals, who chose this way to ask for an eternal remission of their sins.
Centuries old connections between these towns located within the premises of the Konin district, with monasteries in Trzemeszno, Strzelno, collegiate church in Kruszwica, with Kalisz, cathedrals in Gniezno and Poznań, may enrich our knowledge about the oldest Polish history. Access roads to Strzelin, Kruszwica, Poznań, Gniezno crossing the Konin district create an excellent opportunity to visit these places, which significantly extend our knowledge related with the cultural heritage of the Piast Trail.