THE SCULPTURAL SET-UP OF THE CONVENTUAL CHURCH IN TRZEBNICA
AND ITS LINKS WITH THE CATHEDRAL IN BAMBERG
S um m ary
The conventual church in Trzebnica, a sumptuous transept basilic from the beginning of the 13th century, has preserved its
original structure under the sheathing of the reconstruction in the baroque. Most functional éléments of this structure, wali
columns of late-Romanesque bases and capitals which support girths and ribs of the already Gothic vaulting, have persisted
untouched. Partially destroyed and scattered was only an exceptional, very rich figurai sculpture, contradictory to the Cistercian
rule accepted by the convent. Its origination is closely connected with an extra function of the duke's burying place which was from
the very beginning planned by the founder Henry I Bearded from the Silesian branch of the Polish Piast dynasty.
In their place remained only tympana of the northern portai of the western façade and the porta mortuorum in the gable-
topped wall of the transept's northern arm. Ail other sculpture éléments were removed at successive reconstructions of the modem
epochs and used secondarily as ordinary building materiał. Beginning from 1904, respective findings (especially the ones discov-
ered during researches in the thirties and eighties) have constituted a solid basis for debating over the program and style of the
The explorations in the thirties, which culminated in the discovery of a portai with a tympanun featuring David and Bet-
sabee, shed the light on a possibly tripartite portal setting. It was cloaked by a porch with elaborately articled vaulting. The
eighties, however, brought an extended knowledge of the western façade and moreover defined the size and function of the
convent's gallery which stretched across two eastern bays of the nave and a half of the middle bay of the transept. Thèse researches
also revealed extremely important relicts of the sculptural set-up of the gallery.
The newly-found top party of the Thorn Crowning group and an earlier dicovered fragment with Abraham offering Isaac
(mentioned in 1515 as a part of the tribune) both indicate there be a Passion cycle with typological équivalents from The Old
Testament. Reliefs of this cycle on partitions of the choir stall in the gallery belonged to the program of which axis was the altar
and a large crucifix mounting over it. The christological thème imagined in the gallery's sculptures was completed with motives
of Mary in the western façade. It was as early as 1940 that a study was published where Dagobert Frey assumed the message of
the reliefs of the David's tympanum was an ecclesiastic métaphore where the Church - Christ's bride is personified by Mary from
the scène of Christ's Crowning the Mother of God and by the Old Testament's ruling couples, David and Betsabee and Salomon
and Saba. The récent finds seem to speak for this hypothesis. A proof of Salomon's présence on the reliefs is a console bearing
his name and thèmes connected with Mary are suggested by segments of a large archivolt displaying scènes of judgement and
martyrdom. It must have been an archivolt of the middle portai in the western façade, supported by reveals with reliefs which
represented the apostles. Next to Thomas and Philip there must have figured ail other apostles. In this context in a number of
French cathedrals and collegiate churches a tympanum with Mary's Crowning appears. Besides, a smiling chapleted woman's face
which was lately discovered signalizes one more détail, an image of the Wise Virgin.
The obvious iconographie link between the portai setting and the programs of the French cathedral art doesn't, however,
define the sculptural form of Trzebnica's first workshop led by the master of the David and Betsabee's tympanum. Contrary to
some earlier opinions, to this workshop are attributed a tympanum with Mary adored by angels in the head of porta mortuorum,
reliefs with angels, the archivolt's figurai segments and fragments of sculptures in the Passion cycle. One could find there many
residues of the Romanesque form, which originated from miniatures in illuminated manuscripts, especially of the Saxon school.
Still, ail thèse relations dont' explain the style of the team from Trzebnica. Sculptures of the first workshop appear very close to
the earliest sculptures of the Bamberg's cathedral - Gnadenpforte and a few sculptures from St. George's choir.
Evident ties of both manners of workshop are observable, i.e. an identical method of forming the relief (David's tympanum,
tympanum Gnadenpforte), related expressionist using draperies, similar face types and gestures as well as an analogous technique
of carving relief in stone to polychrome. Bamberg's parallels support the dating for the second décade of the 13th century which
is not denied in written sources to the history of construction of both the conventual church in Trzebnica and the cathedral in
Bamberg. A style change connected with the origination of the Duke's Portai in Bamberg has reflected in the work of only the
second sculpture workshop in Trzebnica. It is this workshop that I attribute the torsos of the fully-plastic figures found in the
eighties to. A tentative date of the origination of the Duke's Portai - 1224 is thus a termimus post quem for other above mentioned
sculptures. From the same workshop corne also the woman's chapleted head and a head of an adolescent, strongly related to the
French cathedral art. Eventually, the third workshop, working in the fourth décade of the 13th century, richly decorated the western
porch. Both figurai motives and ornamental forms of extensive „stalactitic" keystones speak for the Rhein descent of its team.
It is the plentifully evidenced historical circumstances that explain such immédiate links of the major sculptures in Trze-
bnica and the workshop of the cathedral in Bamberg. Trzebnica's first convent was transplanted from Bamberg and among
celebrities who signed the its foundation act were Ekbert, the archbishop of Bamberg, a brother of Jadwiga the princess of Andechs
Meran, wife of prince Henry I the Bearded and her uncle Poppo, the rector of the Bamberg's cathedral.
Zdjęcia wykonali: В. Cynalewski - 13; M. Janiak - 9, 10, 12, 17-19; J. Langda - 1, 5, 6, 8; Z. Świechowski - 2, 3, 7, 11, 14, 15;
Bildarchiv Foto, Marburg - 4, 16.