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Honourable patronage:

Bogdan Zdrojewski
Minister Kultury
i Dziedzictwa Narodowego

Międzynarodowa Rada
Ochrony Zabytków

Fot. Andrzej M. Wyrwa
VOIVODESHIP: pomorskie
COMMUNE: Krokowa
DIOCESE: gdańska
DECANATE: Żarnowiec
FOUNDATION: po 1253r. przed 1257r.

History of the abbey

      The Cistercian abbey in Oliwa was a founder of the cloister in Żarnowiec when in 1215 they got it as a grant. The cloister was probably founded in 1235 which is confirmed by a protective bull of pope Innocent IV. The first reference to the convent was in 1267 and then in 1279 it is mentioned as already functioning women Cistercian cloister. In the same year the foundation and its properties were confirmed by Gdańsk's Prince Mściwój II at the same time he gave them judiciary and economic privileges.
      The convent probably originated from the local knight's and middle class families and it is possible that the first nuns were brought from the already existing cloisters from Pomerania and Denmark. At the head of the convent was a prioress and a congregation was subordinate to Oliwa's abbey.
      Cloistral properties were quite significant. It consisted of 9 villages and settlements, 4 granges, woods, Żarnowieckie Lake and Piaśnica River from this lake to the sea. They also had some patronages and in future houses in Gdańsk.
      Their main income was from land cultivation, breeding sheep from the 14th century, granges and money brought in dowries.
      Soon after Prince of Gdańsk's confirmation of the cloister's properties, the convent started to build a church and other buildings, e.g. brewery, mills, fullers and forge. They finished building in the second half of the 14th century, and then at the beginning of the 15th century a hospital and chaplain's house were built.
      Thanks to the numerous grants and nuns' dowries the convent was extremely important and strong thus becoming one of the biggest and the richest convents in this part of Pomerania.
      This process was stopped by the political issues and wars. First in 1433 the Hussites who were helping the Polish army, took over the properties plundering and looting them. Then in 1440 there was a plague in Żarnowiec which resulted in the death of 12 nuns. Next, during the Thirteen Years war the cloister and other goods were robbed and plundered. The battle of Świecin in 1462 between The Teutonic Order knights and The Polish army resulted in some damages.
      Kazimierz Jagillończyk confirmed all the former properties and privileges of the cloister when it found itself on the territory of the Royal Prussia, at the same time giving them a parish in Puck as compensation. This grant intensified the conflict between the owners of Krokowa who did not agree with king's will and started to attack the cloister.
      The Thirteen years war and the later attacks resulted in devastation and seizure of cloistral equipment. Some of it was sold or given away by the nuns in order to maintain the convent during the time of war. At the end, the convent lost the parish of Puck.
      More or less at the same time there was a school for noble and middle-class girls opened where they were taught manners and devotion, how to read and write, embroidery and sewing.
      At the beginning of the 16th century the Reformation reached Żarnowiec which put at risk cloister's economy. In 1561-1566 the nuns could not develop their lands so they gaged it to the citizens of Gdańsk. The next result of the Reformation could be seen in the nuns leaving the convent and those who stayed stopped obeying the rules of enclosure and monastic observance.
      In this situation in 1584 Oliwa's abbot asked the abbess of Benedictines from Chełmno, Magdalena Mortęska, for help and 7 nuns from Chełmno came to Żarnowiec.
      In 1589 Żarnonowiec's congregation of the Cistercian nuns was suppressed and their buildings and goods were taken over by the Benedictines. Three last Cistercian nuns left the cloister.
      The year of 1617 started the period of wealth. Two new granges were built. The cloister became an abbey and by this gained administrative rights and independence. An abbess was the head of the convent.
      The Benedictine abbey in Żarnowiec not only did become a culture-producing centre but also a strong centre of Polishness in the area. This convent, in comparison to the Cistercian convent constituted only of the Polish nuns.
      This period of success was stopped by the wars. First, during the Swedish Deluge the nuns had to leave their properties and move to Chełmno and Gdańsk, and then during the Northern War they had to pay tributes to the Polish army and had to quarter the soldiers.
      Apart from the already existing post-Cistercian school for girls for the noble and middle-class families, the nuns opened a school for country girls teaching them embroidery patterns and motives. It was the beginning of the characteristic Kashubian embroidery. The nuns were occupied with making liturgical vestments; additionally they were rewriting and illuminating handwritten liturgical books.
      The year of 1772 initiated the period of abbey's suppression which was under Prussian partition rule. The same year brought secularization of the monastic properties. Next year they had to limit the number of candidates and a few years later they stopped admitting them. A part of the objects and rooms were taken from the nuns. A visible loss of labour force took place as rural population was exempted from corvee and were allowed to change their place of living.
      In 1834 the convent was suppressed. The nuns received meager life annuity and were allowed to leave Żarnowiec. The buildings were taken over by a local parish. Part of the objects was rebuilt and the most ruined were pulled down.
      In 1946 the nuns once again settled in Żarnowiec's cloister. The repatriated Benedictines from Wilno settled there and they have been the owners of this until these days. After taking over claustrum they started to renovate it. They managed to restore its former importance as a significant cultural and scientific centre in Gdańk Pomerania.

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The Abbey today

Today of the abbey

The church, cloistral buildings, chaplain's house from 1404 (now it is occupied by the Abbess of Żarnowiec) and fragment of the wall have survived until our times.


The cloister it is one of the most interesting and most valuable historic complexes in Gdańsk Pomerania. Since 1946 the objects have been in the hands of Benedictine Sisters.
Now in the former scriptorium there is, inaccessible for tourists, collection of liturgical vestments decorated with famous embroidery of Żarnowiec's nuns, goldsmith's products as well as handwritten, richly illuminated books.

Klasztor ss. Benedyktynek
84-112 Żarnowiec na Pomorzu 43
tel. 0048 58 673-75-1


The church of The Annunciation Of Lord has equipment mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries. Gothic equipment is scant; there are two tombstones, a sculpture of Echo Homo and wooden Pieta from 1430 which is situated in a specially built in 1630 altar.
The interior is complemented by stalls from 1719- pictures painted on them present the life of St. Scholastica and St. Benedict; altar with a rich woodcarving decoration (17th-18th century); fourteenth-century gothic statues of Madonna with an Infant Jesus; choir's balustrade decorated with sculptures showing 12 Apostles; pulpit; Baptismal Font; Communion balustrades; Statue of St. Catherine the Martyr; and baroque confessional.
Now, the parish takes care of the church, cemetery, rectory and part of gallery that is outside the enclosure while the rest of the objects is sisters' property.

Kościół parafialny Zwiastowania Pana
ul. Klasztorna 3;
84-110 Żarnowiec

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