Lubiąż - Grand Cistercian Abbey
When the news spread in 1997 of Michael Jackson’s visit to Lubiąż in Lower Silesia, southwest Poland, speculations were endless: would the King of Pop settle near Wroclaw? Perhaps he would create an entertainment center in Lubiąż?
Jackson's visit lasted only 20 minutes: he entered the monastery to the sound of a local brass band, marched through several rooms, threw a perfunctory "I love you" (the crowd waved joyously), and got into a car. That was the last the residents of Lubiąż saw of him. Allegedly, Michael resigned from the monastery's purchase when he saw the sheer size of it with his own eyes. Lubiąż Abbey was too big even for Michael Jackson.
The cubature of the building is astonishing: it is two and a half times bigger than the Wawel Castle. The roof's surface area covers nearly 2.5 hectares, and the length of the facade measures 223 meters, which is more than twice as long as an average football field. It is considered one of the longest baroque facades in Europe.
The founders of sacral buildings in Lubiąż were Cistercians brought there by Boleslaw I the Tall in 1163. Thanks to their own work and numerous donations, the Cistercians guided Lubiąż to its full bloom: the abbots' palace, a hospital, the Blessed Virgin Mary church, numerous farm buildings, and the 18th century, the monastery in its present form was built. The interior decoration is the work of skillful artists, among them, Michael Willmann (1630-1706), called the “Silesian Rembrandt.” Particularly noteworthy are his frescoes (measuring nearly 620 square meters) and dozens of paintings. The monastery, church, and the abbot's palace form a huge complex, which was one of the largest religious complexes in Europe at that time.
In 1810, as a result of secularization in Prussia (Lower Silesia was a part of Prussia at that point), the Cistercian Order ceased to exist. Almost 500 paintings, many sculptures, porcelains, and valuable furnishings were taken away from the monastery, mainly to the gallery arranged in Breslau (now: Wroclaw). Several years later, the monastery was transformed into a psychiatric center, and the farm buildings and the palace became the property of a stud farm. The monastery interior was rebuilt to decrease hospital high maintenance costs.
The history of Lubiąż during the Nazi regime is shrouded in mystery. We know that Adolf Hitler visited Lubiąż in 1936. We do not know much about what happened here during the Second World War. There were rumors that Germans built secret factories under the monastery where they worked on V1 and V2 rockets. The most documented version indicates that the monastery in Lubiąż housed a Telefunken company's research center working on a radar system.
In spring 1944, the remaining Willmann paintings, sculptures, and other decor elements were transported from the monastery and the church by the Nazi administration to a hide in Lubomierz. They were secured after the war by a Polish research team. In the 1950s, the Polish authorities handed over the Lubiaz collections to ... Warsaw Diocese.
Since 1945, Lower Silesia (including Lubiąż) has belonged to Poland, but until 1948, the monastery housed a military hospital of the Soviet Army (which was partially responsible for destroying the monastery). After 1989, the Lubiąż Abbey has undergone minor renovation by the Lubiaz Foundation. A few rooms were reconstructed and can be visited, but much work still needs to be done.
All photographs by Grzegorz Litynski, www.litynski.com.
Further reading in English: Dean E. Murphy “Poland Thrills as Jackson Window-Shops for Acreage.” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1997. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-05-28-mn-63102-story.html
Wikipedia. Lubiąż Abbey.
Lubiąż Abbey from the bird's point of view, video lenght 1min50sec.
Further reading in Polish:
Jacek Antczak “Michael, Welcome to Lubiąż.” Gazeta Wrocławska, July 10, 2009. https://gazetawroclawska.pl/michael-welcome-to-lubiaz/ar/139318
Paweł Giergoń. Architektura. Lubiąż - Opactwo Cystersów.
Further reading in German: