Monastery of the Order of Norbertines is located in the west of Krakow. Built in 1148, this fortified complex destroyed and rebuilt again several times over the centuries, seemingly irresistible to the marauding Tartar hordes whose proficiency at razing architectural marvels has been well noted by history.
It is believed that members of the Order of St. Norbert came to this place in the middle of the XII century. Initially the monastery was divided into the male and female part. It became exclusively female after Tartar raids in 1241.
The structures seen today within the monastery’s many courtyards and high, crenellated walls were rebuilt at the turn of the 17th century and the interiors date to the 18th century. The baroque Church of St. Augustine & John the Baptist (open during mass only) can be entered through the 13th century Romanesque portal beneath the tower or through the outer courtyard.
As with most ancient Cracovian landmarks, there are a fair few legends associated with the Norbertine Monastery.
The first is to do with Saint Bronisława, who after being visited by the Holy Spirit and warned of an impending Tartar attack (which back in those days was a bit like having the Lord tell you that the sun was going to come up tomorrow), managed to rally the Sisters to safety in the adjacent hills which now bear her name. The monastery was of course destroyed and Saint Bronisława spent the rest of her days mending the spirits of those sceptical of a God that would send Tartars to burn their homes every damn weekend.
Another legend regards the Norbertine Cathedral bell and its mournful, murky tone. During tartar raid the enemy forces broke the bell from the tower and tried to take it off with them as trophy, but they drowned in the Visla. Since then at the night of the summer solstice, the river water parts and people can see a bell on the river bottom. People may heard the bell until the clock on the town hall will show twelve.
Events and traditions
Some of Kraków’s most important traditions are also connected with the monastery.
The St. Norbert Monastery is famous for the feast of Emmaus. People celebrate it on the first Monday after Easter for the past eight centuries. Traditionally, the celebration begins with a solemn mass in the Church of St. Augustine and John the Baptist, which conducted by the Archbishop of Krakow. All participats in the prayer granted the indulgence – remission of sins, therefore this feast has an alternative name "dismissal" ("odpust"). Then the festival moves to nearby streets: fair, musical performances and entertainments.
The June Lajkonik Procession - the foremost symbol of Kraków - also goes near the monastery. The character in the costume of a Tartar horseman with the Krakow banner goes down the streets of the city accompanied by folk musicians on the eighth day after the Body and Blood of Christ feast. The procession originated for the memory of two sieges by the Tartar forces who had to endure Krakow.
The monastery has a valuable collection of manuscripts and old books, a collection of fabrics and items of decorative-applied art.