Chełmno – church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


   The parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chełmno was erected in the years 1280-1320. In contrast to many other sacred buildings, it was built quite quickly, and during the construction only small adjustments were made in relation to the original design. It was erected in two phases. First, until the early 1290s, a chancel and a northern aisle were erected. In the second phase, the construction of the entire nave was completed, while at the latest before 1333 the north-west tower was finished. The southern tower was left unfinished, while the upper part of northern tower was added in the late gothic period, after the fire of 1501.
In the following centuries, no major alterations were made to disturb the gothic character of the temple and the impression of stylistic uniformity. Only in 1560, the chapel of the Mother of God was added, and at the end of the 17th century, the chapel of Corpus Christi and in the 18th century, the southern porch. At the end of the 19th century, serious repair work was carried out on the damaged by the time walls, in particular within the highest storey of the northern tower.


   The temple is a three-nave, hall church with a separate, narrow rectangular chancel on the eastern side. On the west side, the church facade is covered by two massive towers of unequal height. Most probably the southern tower was not completed, due to fire, collapse and lack of money to continue construction. Circular stair towers, flanked with diagonal buttresses, were placed in the west facade corners. It was a rare solution, found only in the cathedral in Strasbourg and Regensburg, as well as the two-tower facade, rarely found in the brick Baltic lowland. On its western axis there is a magnificent gable with an even number of pilaster strips passing into the pinnacles and a main field divided by three high blendes housing pairs of smaller niches and crowned with wimpergs. A characteristic feature of the external architecture of the church were also five bays of aisles, covered with separate roofs, perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. Each bay is crowned with a separate gable and pierced by a large ogival window that adds a particular finesse to the side façades.
Church was one of the many parish temples in Prussia under the protection of the Teutonic Order. This was connected with the construction of the matroneum, which consisted of triple rooms in the western massif and a gallery in the northern tower at the presbytery. These interiors served the local Teutonic authorities. The architectural expression of the patronage of the Teutonic Order over the church was also the motif of two slender towers, provided in the original plan in the corners between the chancel and the eastern walls of the aisles (currently in their place there are early modern chapels). The northern tower was on a square plan, three-story and directly connected to the chancel, with which it communicated through the ogival three-light openning enclosed in a large blende. The southern tower probably never reached a higher height than one floor and was transformed into a gothic chapel.
The interior of the church is divided into three naves of equal height and almost the same width (8.7 meters in the central nave and 7.4 meters in aisles), enhancing the impression of spaciousness. The naves and chancel were covered with rib vaults with suspended bosses with a rich iconographic program. You can see there, among others, the performance of ostrich, mermaid, basilisk, dragon, geese, eagle, head of a jester, bishop and old man.
On the huge pillars you can admire the gallery of eleven apostles, made around 1330-1340. It is the most monumental group of this type in former Prussia, used even in the castle church in Malbork and in the cathedral in Königsberg, and probably modeled on the chapel at the royal palace in Paris. In Chełmno, for the first time, it was placed in the nave, not in the presbytery. The apostles hold in their hands the books on which the creed was originally written. At the same time, wall paintings in the presbytery and Saint Christopher painted in the northern aisle. The presbytery’s internal elevations are smooth, divided only by thin ancillary columns, on which the vaults flow.

Current state

    The parish church in Chełmno belongs, in addition to the church of St. James in Toruń, to buildings of the highest artistic rank in the historical region of Chełmno Land. It was built by workers of a high level of workshop skills, as demonstrated by the rigorous symmetry of the plan, but also by careful and rich elaboration of architectural and sculptural details. The introduction of certain modifications in the course of construction did not disturb the uniformity of the church, and the hall nave and the straight closed chancel can be treated as a model model of the sacred architecture of the Chełmno Land.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Mroczko T., Architektura gotycka na ziemi chełmińskiej, Warszawa 1980.

Walczak M.,Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Webpage, Kościół Wniebowzięcia NMP w Chełmnie.