The Ways of St. James in Poland


 The history of Olesnica Mala

First information about Olesnica Mala appeared in a document of Bishop from Wroclaw Żyrosław II in 1189, when was drown up a list of villages which were paying to Wroclaw Cathedral a tithe. In theXIIth century Olesnica Mala with places from neighbourhood was a part of prince’s property. Prince of Silesia, Bolesław I Wysoki (Boleslaw the Tall) ordered to build in Olesnica Mala a ‘hunting’ castle with a chapel. This castle was designed for prince who used it only when he came to hunt.

In 1227 a son of prince Bolesław I Wysoki – prince Henryk I Brodaty (Henry the Bearded) on his wife’s, Jadwiga, suggestion made the Templars from around Brunszwik come to Olesnica Mala and gave them the village with several others from neighbourhood. The friars settled there their property called komturia – the only one historically documented in whole Silesia. Olesnica Mala became a place where pilgrims started to come to. In 1312 the monastery of the Templars was dissolved and in 1314 Olesnica Mala with the komturia and other subordinated places were taken over by the order of knights – the Joannits – called also ‘hospitalers’ or ‘Maltese knights’.

In 1377 the prince of Cieszyn, the prior of  the Czech Joannits, Siemowit received from the prince of Brzeg – Ludwik I – a document of location of the Olesnica Mala village and renewed the sanctuary. It is known that Olesnica Mala was destroyed twice: in 1438 by the Hussites and in 1478 by Polish army. At the turn of the XVI and XVII centuries the castle was extended and converted into a castle with proportions typical for Silesia: close, three-storey high, covered with steep roof, with small top-mass. Olesnica Mala really suffered during Swedish battles in 1642 when collection of relics was destroyed. In 1706 a huge fire took place which destroyed the monastery assumption really hard. In 1711 complex’s reconstruction was finished and it made the structure more baroque. It was decided to relocate a destroyed monastic church in the east wing into new place – to the south wing of the monastery, adapted specially in order to do it. In Olesnica Mala there were located three gates, an inn, a parish church, a cemetery. In 1802 on recommendation of the last leader of the Joannits, Wenzel von Schaffgotsch, was built a hospital for the village. Olesnica Mala was under ‘hospitalers’ rule till the year 1810.

In 1810 secularization of church property took place and as a result of it Olesnica Mala with other villages in neighbourhood were taken away from order of the Joannits. For 4 years (1810 – 1814) the village had been the property of the Prussian treasury. In 1814 Olesnica Mala with other 12 adjoining places was given to field marshal count Hans Ludwig David Yorck von Wartenburg by The King of Prussia Frederick Wilhelm II for services to the country during Napoleonic wars. The Yorcks’ family converted monastic complex into magnificent secular residence. First reconstruction took place between 1815 and 1820. From 1835 to the end of the XIXth century modernization and conservation works in the church were carried out. In 1841 there were eliminated crypts of order of the Joannits’ in basement, removed gravestones from the floor in the church and interior of church was painted. In 1896 elevation of church was redecorated. In years 1904 – 1905 monastic complex was extended, wings were joined into one, Sophia’s tower was built and decorated in art nouveau style, there also were built a main hall with arcade in west part of the complex and modernist library in its north-west part, reconstructed also the orangery with terrace which stuck to the south part of elevation of the church. Since 1821 started to create an English park on the base of the forest which neighboured with the palace. In the park there was built a mausoleum of the Yorck von Wartenburg family. In Olesnica Mala were built also a Protestant and Catholic school, a fire station. Unfortunately, at the end of the Second World War whole palace-park complex was devastated during the time when Soviet army was stationed in there. There were destroyed also furniture, very rich book collection and collection of paintings.

After the Second World War Olesnica Mala became a property of Polish country. In 1955 palace-park complex was devolved to the Institute of Raising and Adjustment of Plants. In 1993 thanks to funds of provincial conservator and Polish-German cooperation the mausoleum of the Yorcks’ family was rebuilt and because of that it still attracts our attention with its classic proportions.




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