This paper considers four easternmost Cistercian Abbeys in Poland, at Jędrzejów, Koprzywnica, Wąchock, and Sulejów, all of them built relatively quickly and at a broadly similar date. The monastic churches at each site share the same ground plan, a well-established transregional plan type traditionally associated with Citeaux II.

Regional specificity depends on ideological context – in which respect the patron saints of these churches are important. These were chosen because they helped support the political aims of Krakow’s duke or Krakow’s bishop, or both. The patrons thus honoured were St Adalbert – the first patron saint of the Polish kingdom, St Florian, whose relics were brought from Italy to Krakow during the relevant period, and St Thomas Becket, whose cult was strongly promoted in the diocese of Krakow thanks to close contact between the local bishop and the English clergy. Moreover, in western Europe Cistercian monasteries were usually built in remote and inhospitable regions; so that the monks would not come into contact with laymen and could follow a life of strict religious discipline. In both Poland and Lesser Poland, Cistercian monasteries were always located by the seats of local rulers and were initially given an older church or a chapel.

Thanks to the initiatives of local bishops and lay founders, even such pan-European architectural forms and ideas as those promoted by the Cistercians thus acquired certain local and regional characteristics.