Oliwa Cathedral

Gdańsk, Poland

Oliwa Cathedral is dedicated to The Holy Trinity, Blessed Virgin Mary and St Bernard. The first Cistercian monastery on the site was founded by Sambor I of Gdánsk, Duke of Pomerania, in 1186. The first Romanesque oratory was burnt down in 1224 during the pagan Prussians crusade. It was rebuilt in 1234-1236, but destroyed again by Prussian crusade.

In 1350 fire that was caused by chimney soot excess completely consumed both the church and the monastery. The present shape of both of those buildings date back to the second half of the 14th century. During the rebellion of the city of Gdańsk the mercenary army attacked the monastery and burned it to the ground in 1577. The current church was rebuilt between 1578-1583 and inaugurated in 1594.

In 1831 Prussian authorities closed down the Cistercian monastery in Oliwa. The church, together with some of the buildings belonging to it, was handed over to a Catholic parish. It took until 1925, when under a papal bull issued, Pope Pius XI established the Diocese of Gdańsk and by that raised the Oliwa church to the dignity of a cathedral. Oliwa became the capital of the diocese and a seat of bishops.

Oliwa cathedral is a three-nave basilica with a transept and a multi sided closed presbytery, finished with an ambulatory. The façade is flanked by two slender towers, 46-metres tall each with sharply-edged helmets. It is enlivened by a Baroque portal from 1688, as well as three windows of different sizes and three cartouches. The crossing of the naves is overlooked by a bell tower, a typical element of the Cistercian architecture. The cathedral is 17.7m high, 19m wide and 107m long (97.6m of the interior itself), which makes it the longest Cistercian church in the world. It holds works of art in Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Classical style of great artistic value.

All the 23 altars of the cathedral are of great historical value. They are mainly Baroque and Rococo, partly made of marble. Their iconography depicts the main principles of the post-Trent church. Most outstanding are the present High Altar (1688), which is the most profound Baroque work of art in Pomerania; and the Netherland Renaissance style altar, which until 1688 played the role of the main one. The paintings in the altars, presbytery and main nave were made by the famous 17th- century artists: Herman Han (1574–1628), Adolf Boy (1612-1680), Andrzej Stech (1635–1697) and Andreas Schlütera (1660–1714). The interior also holds Rococo chapels of the Holy Cross and St John of Nepomuk, an ambo, tombstones, epitaphs, the Pomeranian Dukes tomb, the Kos family tomb, bishop’s crypt, antique chandeliers, canopies, and many other antiquities, including a feretory of great cultural value, showing Our Lady of Oliwa with an Infant Jesus. The feretory is always carried during the annual walking pilgrimage to the Calvary of Wejherowo. The archcathedral holds organ concerts all year round and the beautifully restored monastery (now belonging to Gdańsk Seminary) displays the collection of the Diocesan Museum. Oliwa Cathedral is very important place for the Kashubian culture.

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Founded: 1578-1594
Category: Religious sites in Poland

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4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

אבי וייס (3 years ago)
What a beauti. We went to a concert there that was excellent.
Michael Swanson (3 years ago)
Incredible place. The ceiling in the side chapel is painted. Beautiful.
Rob Szarek (3 years ago)
Inside this cathedral is one of the largest pipe organs in all of Europe. What's great is that if you arrive just before 3pm weekdays, you are treated to an unforgettable organ concert that lasts about 30 minutes. It is a powerful concert where that organ has the ability to vibrate the seat you are in. All that is asked of you is a small donation. Well worth it. Afterwards you can explore the cathedral and it's interesting interior.
Monika Bijeikytė (3 years ago)
The church is really big, but for me the interior wasn't that impressive or beautiful. However, we went to organ concert here and it was amazing.
Michael Nordsted (3 years ago)
The Polish churches are fine, but they really need both care and environmental protection. The city allow big parken places close to the church, and very often there are messe. That is really a pity.
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