The Cistercian Trail
The Cistercian trail – tourist route presenting numerous aspects concerning the relations of the Cistercian abbey in Ląd on Warta with many towns located within the area of the present Konin district. According to the assumptions of the preliminary project the route also constitutes a part of the Route to Malbork, namely the German route, presenting the cultural heritage of our western neighbours in the area of Wielkopolska and Poland.
European cultural heritage connected with the role of the Cistercian order, created in the 12th century, shows its economic, political and cultural influence within the area of the former Lędzko chatelaine (Lędzko-Konin land), then the historic Konin district.
The grey monks brought to Ląd on Warta played an immense role in integrating the Christian Europe. They brought many new ideas into the Slavic land, they perfected the agricultural economy, developed fruit-farming, fish breeding, construction (gothic art). They taught us to use many energy sources (water and air mills).
Being on the Polish land since 1145 they quickly gained confidence of the monarchs – Piast princes of Wielkopolska, who often used their wide European contacts for their own political objectives. Brothers from Ląd faithfully served Władysław the Short, Casimir the Great, Władysław Jagiełło and other kings. They also received general recognition from knighthood and noble elite of authorities of the 13th-15th century, the gained respect among gentry and clergy. Due to many legates the abbey in Ląd created one of the biggest village farms in Wielkopolska, covering in the 16th century three own towns and two remaining in their deposit (Królików, Kazimierz Biskupi) and many villages in former Gniezno, Pyzdry and Konin districts, Dobrzyń land and in Gdańsk Pomerania. The abbey possessed numerous goods in various cities (Gniezno, Konin, Pyzdry, Poznań, Gdańsk).
Because the Cistercian monks from this abbey served Grand Teutonic Masters, Polish kings, German emperors and kings and they were citizens of great metropolis on Rhine – Cologne, they achieved significant social, political and economic influences. During centuries they created one of the biggest village farms in Wielkopolska, and they spent large amounts of money obtained from farming on works of art. They possessed a large monastic library with more than 5000 volumes. They secured their political position thanks to their relations with the court of princes of Wielkopolska, who were their patrons. During the reigns of Władysław the Short, Casimir the Great and Władysław Jagiełło they helped in diplomatic activities. The monastery was a place of princes’ conventions; it was the place where political treaties were signed and newly chosen bishops were consecrated. Monks from Ląd were servants of Grand Teutonic Masters. They guaranteed peace treaties signed by Polish kings. Within the economic sphere they gained influence through capital turnover. Within this domain they competed with the collegiate church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kalisz and cathedral chapters. They transferred part of the capital into the cities, where they made numerous investments and deposits (f. ex. in mills, butcher’s shops and stalls).
During hundreds of years they cooperated with bishops of Poznań and cathedral chapter of the Wielkopolska capital. They were the honourable monks in the Gniezno chamber and sometimes they could become archbishops’ vicars. They made parishes in cities and villages dependent on their influences. What is left after the Cistercians from Ląd is quite a large complex of monuments located within the premises of the present Konin (territorial and magistrate), Gniezno, Kalisz, Poznań and other districts.
The former abbey in Ląd is a trait of their presence in the Polish national culture, rich in European elements. We can see these traits in many places – even in the present Konin district. It is worth mentioning Gosławice (currently a part of Konin), former residential Zarembów village, later Godziembów village, constant clients of the abbey in 14th-15th century. Cistercian monks from Ląd were strongly related with Bernardine monks from Kazimierz Biskupi, Cameldolite brothers from Bieniszew, and even Reformers from Konin.
Many towns remained in their hands for years, as their property or as a deposit, f. ex.: Chorzeń, Czeszewo, Kazimierz Biskupi, Królików, Lubomyśl, Rzgów, Sławęcin, Sławsk, Starołęka, Święcia. The Cistercian monks gained advantages from many other towns in the form of rents from located sums, tithes and other obligations. They maintained close relations with collegiate church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kalisz, cathedral chambers – in Gniezno and Poznań. The clock on the town hall in Konin, brought here in the 19th century, after the suppression (abolition) of the order, constitutes a significant sign of Cistercian monks from Ląd.
The abbey of Cistercian virgins in Ołobok is also indicated on the route, and from there the trail leads through Kalisz, where the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary founded in the mid 14th century, which in fact was much older and related to the collegiate church in the Old Kalisz (Zawodzie), was the central point, where Polish-German relations met. The collegiate church took over the tradition of the older St. Paul’s collegiate church, where body of prince Mieszko III the Old, founder of the Ląd abbey, was buried. From Kalisz, through Rychwał, Grodziec, Królików, Kowalewek, Rzgów, the trail leads to the monastery in Ląd. Its section in Konin leads further through Golina, Kawnice, Bieniszew, Kazimierz Biskupi, Gosławice to Konin and further on to Pomeranian estates: Kłodawa, Trąbki Wielkie and Godziszew, constituting the main spots of the so-called Kłodawa-Godziszew provostry (complex of about 10 villages near Gniew, Pelplin and Tczew). The route ends in Gdańsk-Oliwa.
Ląd as one of the so-called three colonial Cistercian abbeys in Wielkopolska, was settled by a convent, whose major percentage constituted sons of Cologne townsmen. They were the only men accepted to the abbey from the mid 13th century to the mid 16th century. 16th century national conflict forced the townsmen of Cologne to leave Ląd and move to Silesia, where they settled in monasteries in Henryków, Kamieniec, Krzeszów and Lubiąż.
As servants of Grand Teutonic Masters they actively participated in Polish political life, providing valuable services for Władysław the Short, Casimir the Great, Władysław Jagiełło, Casimir Jagiellonian and others. During the Warsaw 1339 Process they testified against the Teutonic Order.
The immense role that the Cistercian Order played throughout centuries within the economy and culture is worth reminding through presentation of numerous monuments on the Cistercian Route, which constitutes a fragment of great peregrination route of cultural significance. Thanks to the Cistercian Order from Cologne various religious cults appeared in Wielkopolska, including the cult of St. Ursula (n. Wilczyn), Three Kings and St. Jacob. The abbey in Ląd was one of the most important places of cult related with St. Jacob the Apostle (Golina. Dobrosołowo, Rzgów, Wrząca Wielka), and the centre of the cult is Santiago di Compostella in Spain. Numerous churches under this name and related with the abbey in Ląd make us think about the existence of the Polish road to Santiago di Compostella. Near Cistercian abbeys in Wielkopolska there is a significant concentration of parish churches under the name of this Disciple of Christ.
Prepared by Paulina Wojtyniak