The construction of the church of the Apostles Peter and Paul began the Dominicans in the 4th quarter of the 13th century, although there are earlier fragments of the late-Romanesque building from around 1240-1250 (walls at the western porch). At the end of the 13th or in the first half of the 14th century, the chancel and the nave were built, initially in the form of an asymmetrical two-nave hall with six bays, which in the third quarter of the fourteenth century was transformed into an asymmetrical, three-nave hall.
An important event in the history of the church was the rebuilding of the nave in the 17th century. At that time, the walls of the central nave were raised, and Baroque vaults were spread on six massive pillars. This changed the existing hall layout of the church to a basilica one. The porch and sacristy as well as the monastery were also rebuilt.
In 1720 a roof fire took place, which may have influenced the need to fund a new interior design in the mid-18th century. In 1829, the Prussian authorities liquidated the convent and the church’s decor was moved to other Catholic churches. A year later, monastery buildings adjacent to the church were burnt down. From 1841, the new owner – Evangelical commune – adopted the church to meet its needs. It stayed in their hands until 1945, when after over a hundred years it became a Catholic temple again.
The church was built of bricks, orientated towards the sides of the world. In the first half of the fourteenth century, the nave was built in the form of a two-nave hall with six bays. It was rebuilt in the third quarter of the fourteenth century, then a third, very narrow northern aisle was added. Ultimately, church reached 54.5 meters internal length and 19.3 meters wide. Due to the fact that it stood on the edge of the Vistula embankment, it received solid foundations and walls, which thickness in the chancel is 1.5 meters.
The church chancel received three bays and was closed with half of an octagon. It is 22.9 meters long, 8.7 meters wide, and 19.2 meters high. It was the first soaring interior in the Chełmno Land. The slender choir was then a completely new phenomenon in gothic architecture of the Chełmno, starting a new stage, characterized by a steady increase in the height of the building. From the outside, the chancel was reinforced with stepped buttresses. Its interior, once only available to monks, was topped with a rib vault and stellar vault in one bay. They fall on the carved corbels on the walls. The ancillary columns come in two varieties: the older in the form of circular, suspended on conical corbels with spiral, vegetable and tracery decorations, and younger ancillary columns in bundles, five-split, mounted on corbels with a mermaid and lion motif and with tracery decoration. Different forms of ancillary columns and hanging them at different heights indicate that in the first phase the vault was built in the first bay from the west and in the eastern closure. In the second phase, stellar vaults were planned to be established, but they were implemented only in one bay.
The largest architectural decoration of the temple is the beautiful western gable, which is 31 m high and 19 m wide. It is asymmetrical in relation to the chancel, which is clearly visible when you look from the steps of the altar towards the entrance. It received small and dense vertical divisions, which were not broken by horizontal banding friezes. The whole field was divided into individual parts by angled pinnacles, between which are pointed ogival blendes.
The original hall form of the church has not survived to modern times due to early modern rebuilding. Unfortunately, the interior was baroqueized (although in the nave, the 14th-century frescoes depicting the Carnage of the Innocents and Golgotha were discovered and unveiled in 1969), and the western facade was preceded by a neo-Gothic porch, built over the oldest part of the church. Fortunately, it does not spoil its character, because its gable is a reduced repetition of the main gothic gable. Entering the church through it, it is worth paying attention to the ogival Gothic portal made of profiled bricks. The chancel, one of the first in the Baltic lowlands, in which the tendency to erect squat and low blocks was overcome, remained close to its original condition.
Chrzanowski T., Kornecki M., Chełmno, Warszawa 1991.
Mroczko T., Architektura gotycka na ziemi chełmińskiej, Warszawa 1980.
Webpage wnmpchelmno.pl, Kościół świętych Apostołów Piotra i Pawła.