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Sources of monastic culture patterns – transformation and reception in medieval Poland: written culture, oral and visual transmission

Head: Ph.D. Michał Tomasz Gronowski

The project has basically two objectives: publication of four monographic volumes together with source text translations, and preparation of an interdisciplinary research workshop by participation of representatives of various specializations. To this end the project plans to organise a series of workshops addressed primarily to doctoral students, but also open to second degree students specialising in medieval history, history of medieval art and classical philology – medieval Latin. In reading and interpreting selected texts, as well as in workshop discussions, we want to focus on three aspects of these texts: literary, oral and visual (orality, literacy, visuality).

The starting point are the ninth-century texts that detailed and commented on the Rule of St. Benedict. These are fundamental texts, written at the time when the Rule of St. Benedict was promulgated as the only rule of monastic life henceforth valid for all monasteries within the borders of the Empire. The texts mentioned here set the line of interpretation of the Benedictine Rule for the coming centuries (stressing, for example, the primacy of the liturgy and the monks’ prayers for the living and the dead). With the Christianization of the Polish lands, the monks also arrived, bringing with them the Rule, already interpreted in the spirit of the statutes of Benedict of Aniane. Thus, they became not only the foundations of monastic life in Poland, but also part of the Polish cultural heritage. To this must be added the reception of yet another pattern, namely, the shape of the monastic buildings, which was specified at the time of the reforms of Benedict of Aniane, and which was modelically expressed by the plan of the Abbey of Sankt Gallen. This pattern, brought by the first monks, became permanently present in the Polish monastic architecture. Subsequently, selected hagiographic and historiographic texts will be analyzed. Particularly emblematic here seems to be the Life of St. Maurus, a disciple of St. Benedict, who, according to the tradition formed in the 9th century, was to transplant from Italy to Gaul the Rule of his master from Monte Cassino. The second text is the Chronicle of the latter abbey. The choice of the above mentioned texts is not accidental. The motifs recorded both in the Life of St. Maurus and in the Chronicle of Monte Cassino were actively referred to in the two most important Polish Benedictine abbeys: in Tyniec and in Holy Cross. Extensive excerpts from the Cassino Chronicle in their Polish translation by the monk from Tyniec, Wojciech from Płock, are testimony to this. The above mentioned texts allow well to show the line between the models and their transformation and reception in Poland. The more so as already in the Middle Ages, legends were formed about the origin of the two above mentioned convents (Tyniec and Holy Cross) from Cluny or from Monte Cassino. Source materials confirm the journeys of monks from Tyniec or Świętokrzyskie to the mentioned monasteries, as well as their copying of various texts from the local libraries.