The first Augustinian friars came to Poland in 1342, and settled at Kraków in southern Poland. They had been invited there from Bohemia by a Polish king, Kazimierz the Great. Twenty years later, the same king granted the Augustinians a piece of land for a construction of a church and a monastery in Kazimierz, which was then a new and a separate city next to Kraków.
The official ceremony marking the opening of their newly-constructed Augustinian priory and its the cloister took place on the 28th May 1378. It was dedicated to St Catherine and St Margaret. Because St Catherine is a patron of study, some historians have suggested that the king wanted the Augustinians to form an academic center.
The golden era of Krakow’s Augustinian community was the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A lot of Polish Augustinians at that time attended major intellectual centers of Europe, or studied at the University of Krakow founded in 1364. Some of them became professors of theology.
The most popular of them was Isaiah Boner O.S.A., a doctor of theology, who died with a reputation of sainthood about the year of 1470. His fame spread throughout the geographically diverse Province of Bavaria, to which the Polish Augustinians then belonged.
Isaiah Boner was a delegate of the Polish community during some Provincial Chapters of the Province of Bavaria. In 1438, he was elected a Province inspector and in 1452 as Vicar General assisted the Prior General during the Provincial Chapter that was held in Ratisbon, Germany. In recent years, he has been promoted for beatification
One of the key moments for the Polish Augustinians in the sixteenth century happened on 31st December 1547. At that time the Prior General, Jerome Seripando O.S.A., separated the Polish Augustinians from the Province of Bavaria, which had suffered ill effects of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.
The Polish Province was placed under the invocation of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary. It was given all Augustinian houses in Little Poland, Mazowsze and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, totalling twenty-three communities and 260 friars. Feliks from Radom, the Prior of St Catherine’s monastery in Kraków, became the first Provincial of the new Province.
In 1583 Provincial Szymon Mniszek O.S.A. founded a congregation of Augustinian Sisters as a female branch of the Augustinian Order in Poland. The Sisters were placed in the neighborhood of the Krakow monastery.
In 1727 the Augustinian friars built them a gothic chapel, which became popularly known as the Hungarian Chapel because its donor was a Hungarian magnate.
The end of the eighteenth century and the whole of the nineteenth century was an extremely difficult time for Poland generally. At the end of the eighteenth century Poland lost its independence.
The nation was partitioned into three sections, which were occupied by three neighboring countries: Austria, Prussia and Russia. Some Augustinians actively participated in a Polish uprising against this oppression.
In 1864 the Russian government suppressed many of the Augustinian convents in Poland, and separated the remaining houses from the jurisdiction of the Prior General at Rome.
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Photos (at right).
Picture 1: St Catherine's Augustinian Church, Kraków.
Picture 2: Statue of St Catherine in the Kraków church.