The Dominicans in Poland

A brief description.

13th Century.
The Dominicans came to Poland upon the initiative of Iwo Odrowaz, the bishop of Krakow. Around 1220-21, he sent a group of Krakow priests, among whom was his
own nephew, Hyacinth Odrowaz, to the Dominican novitiate in Bologna. After a 12-month formation period, they returned to Poland and, around 1222, were given the
Holy Trinity Church in Krakow. In 1225 Gerard of Wroclaw, a graduate from the University of Paris, became the provincial of the Polish Dominicans.
He sent them out to Prague, Plock, Sandomierz, Gdansk, Kamien Pomorski and Wroclaw, where they founded priories, which formed the territory of the Polish Province established in 1225.

By the end the 13th c. the Dominicans erected priories throughout the major cities
of Poland. By 1300, fifty-four priories had been built. In 1301, after the separation
of the Bohemian and Moravian Province, only 32 of the churches remained in the
Polish Province.

About 1230 the Dominicans started their missions in Prussia. They were also active in Lithuania, and especially in Ruthenia, where they liaised between the Ruthenian Orthodox Church and the Catholic West. Until the end of the 16th c., Silesia,
Pomerania and Prussia also belonged to the Province of Poland. As the Kingdom of Poland expanded eastwards, twenty new Dominican houses were set up, out of which nineteen were located in predominately Orthodox areas and one in Vilnius, Lithuania.

14th – 15th Century.
The Dominicans took an active part in spreading the Christian faith and culture throughout the Kingdom of Poland, particularly in the cities. The Dominican priories became spiritual centers for the social and political elite as well as the vast majority
of society. The Dominicans propagated the Western model of Christianity, which was closely connected with scholasticism. The Dominican school system in Poland was not much different from the general monastic model. At the turn of the 14th and 15th c.
a General Studium was established in Krakow. In 1450 it was incorporated into the Academy of Krakow.

The Reformation.
As a result of the Reformation, the Province went through a period of crisis in community life and vocations which considerably weakened the position of the Dominican Order. Over 20 priories had to be suppressed. It was not until the
end of the 16th c. that the process of renewal began. In 1612 the twelve Easternmost priories became the Ruthenian Province, and in 1647 the Lithuanian Province

17th Century.
The 17th c. saw the greatest growth of the Dominican Order in Poland, with
about 100 new priories founded, especially in the Lithuanian and Ruthenian regions. The process, however, slowed down in the 18th c. Until the 1st partition of Poland in 1772, less than twenty new houses were founded.

The increase in the number of the Dominicans stimulated the growth of studia and libraries. Apart from the General Studium in Krakow, houses of study were also
set up in the new provinces: in Lvov (1607), Vilnius (1646), Warsaw (1700),
Podkamien (1746) and Grodno (1750). Unfortunately, at the same time in numerous small priories, scattered in villages, the Dominicans were often taking more care
of their farms than of the studium and pastoral duties.

18th  - 20th Century.
After the third partition of Poland in 1795, the priories in the former territory of Poland and Silesia were suppressed. By 1918, the only part of the Polish Province that survived was the small Province of Galicia, with its 12 priories. The Polish Province of St Hyacinth was re-instated in 1927 within the new borders of Poland. Between the wars, three small priories in the East were abandoned in order to return to major cities, i.e. Lublin, Poznan and Warsaw. At that time the Dominicans returned to work at universities, began publishing, offered pastoral care of the students and initiated the missions in China.

During the Second World War fourteen friars were killed. After the War and subsequent political changes, seven former houses in the territories incorporated into the Soviet Union had to be abandoned. But the Dominicans managed to return to Gdansk, Wroclaw and Warsaw. Pastoral activity in the academic milieu, initiated in Poznan before the Second World War, spread to other priories. In 1958 in Warsaw, the Thomist Institute was established. In 1973 a monthly "W drodze" came out which later evolved into a publishing house. The last twenty-five years has seen a very dynamic development of the Province. The number of brethren has doubled (it now exceeds 450). New priories in Szczecin, Rzeszow, Ustron were founded, and the friars returned to the old Medieval priory in Sandomierz. The Polish Dominicans have also set up a house in Vitebsk in Belarus, Munich and in New York City. At present the Polish Province consists of 13 priories and 7 houses.

Source: Site: The Polish Province. (2008)


In the philately of Poland there are issues of churches, monasteries and priories
of the Dominican Order, so in:
Chelmno (German Kulmhof), Cieszyn (German Teschen), Elblag, Gdansk,  Gródek, Hrubieszów, Janów Lubelski,
 Jaroslaw, Klodzko (German Glatz), Kraków (English Cracow), Lublin, Lwów (Lemberg or Lviv), Opole (German Opplen), Piotrków Trybunalski, Plocka, Poznań, Przemyśl (German Prömsel), SandomierzSlupsk (German Stolp), Tarnobrzeg, Tczew (German Dirschau), Torún (German Thorn), Warszawa (English Warsaw,German Warschau),  Wroclaw (German Breslau).              

With many thanks to Magister Bogdan Michalak, Poznań, for the items and their documentation.  Thanks also to Frans Wols (NL).


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