Old Bernardine Friary

The Order of Friars Minor, previously known as the “Observant” branch of the Franciscan First Orders, are called the Bernardines in Poland and were invited to the city by Jan Amor Tarnowski, in 1459. The friary was erected outside the city, as required by the Bernardine principles, and located within a garden adjacent to the south stretch of the town defensive wall.

Originally, the friary was most likely a provisional wooden structure. In 1468, construction of a brick friary complex, with its own defense wall, was started by Jan Amor, and lasted until the end of the 15th century.

Building begun with construction of a friary church, later the friary house and the protective wall were added. In most likelihood construction was financed by the above mentioned owner of the city, however monks also participated in this undertaking. Antoni from Jarocin is noted as the friar in charge of construction works.

Completion of the friary most likely took place around 1499, however the process of fitting the newly constructed buildings lasted much longer. Three winged cloister, which along with the church, closed a space around a rectangular courtyard, was adjacent to the south side of the church. Vestry was located on the ground floor of the east wing, adjacent to the presbytery. It also served as a passage from the cloister to the monastery and most likely contained a separate treasury.

The whole complex showed typical characteristics of a Bernardine construction. In a group of Bernardine defensive complexes, which were erected at the same time or a little bit later, a characteristic grouping of buildings around a rectangular courtyard, in which the church was usually located on the north side, just like in Tarnów, can be observed. Tarnów church burned down, for the first time, in 1614, and was pillaged during the Swedish Deluge. Despite a systematic downfall of the city, from the time of the Swedish invasion, economic (because it was a large economic complex) and religious life, thrived in the monastery.

This in turn lead to further development of the complex between the 17th and the 18th century. By the decree of the Emperor Josef II, from 1781, after the first partition of Poland in 1772, Malopolska province of the Benedictine Order was disbanded, within the borders of the lands controlled by Austrians. Nonetheless monastery continued to exist. In 1758 Tarnów Diocese was formally created, at the same time a Religious Fund, which started to take over church properties, was brought into existence.

Decision, from the 20th of May 1789, issued by Austrian authorities, closed the monastery, and the monks were allowed to move into a building abandoned by Bernardine Sisters. Between the 18th and the 19th century, the monastery was used for various purposes, although we are not exactly sure as to what they actually were. Major changes took place at the end of the 18th century. The monastery burned down in 1809 and 1814, after which it was abandoned, however the structural elements of the church and the monastery remained in their entirety.

Between 1823 and 1825 decision to reconstruct the whole complex was made, this included conversion of the church into a court of law (Forum Nobilium). Between twenties and thirties of the 20th century, court was converted into a city hall, which resided here between 1931 and 1960. Later the building was occupied by various institutions: investment board, museum, archives, Polish Red Cross, Friend of Lwów Association, Polish Retired and Pensioner’s Union.

The Building at Bernardyńska 24, an old church from the Bernardine monastery retains an administrative character up till now, with the exception of the ground floor, part of the old presbytery, which was transferred to the Polish Catholic Church of the Holy Cross.