Monastery church of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist was built in the north-west corner of the Old Town, on the edge of the high slope of the Vistula’s valley. It was created in several stages between 1280 and 1330. At the end of the 13th century, circumferential walls were erected. Around 1310-1320, the lower church was vaulted, and around 1330, the upper church was vaulted and the gothic gables were created.
Church is a brick, five-span structure with a pentagonal closed presbyterial part. Its length has reached 27 meters, width is 9.2 meters and the height of the interior is 18 meters. The church was reinforced with external buttresses, with the one buttress on the north side replaced by a staircase turret. The western façade was decorated with a gothic gable with shallow niches and not too prominent pinnacles. The church’s nave is two-storey, thanks to the incorporation of a spacious brick matroneum. The lower part, intended for lay people, is double-nave, with a rib vault supported by three square pillars. Above the upper gallery, where nuns participated in prayers and liturgy, a stellar vault was erected. Vaults of the upper part of the church were decorated with 21 zoo and anthropomorphic creatures. It is not known whether they fulfill a symbolic function or whether they are merely an ornament. The church’s lighting was provided by large ogival windows, originally filled with tracery. In 1595, to the presbytery, a burial chapel of nuns was added from the north, at which the walls of the former tower were used, and from the south the chapel of St. Michael.
Medieval equipment of the monastery church include a tombstone of the burgher of Arnold Lischoren brought from Flanders, who died in 1275. This is one of the oldest monuments of sculpture in Pomerania. Before the mid-fourteenth century, vault bosses were created, and in the mid-century wall paintings on the monastic matroneum – the cycle Songs of songs, of iconography unique in the European scale. From the end of the 14th century comes the figure of Christ in a grave with moving arms.
The oldest element in the monastery is the four-sided so-called The Mestwin Tower (Mściwoj Tower), perhaps built in the second quarter of the 13th century. It could then serve as a Teutonic watchtower, because its location allowed for observation of the vast Vistula valley. Its interior in the later period of the Middle Ages was rebuilt. Among other, in the second quarter of the fourteenth century, a hall with a cross-ribbed vault was created on the first floor. In the upper storey there are late romanesque, semicircle-topped niches.
From the north and west, the monastery was surrounded by town defense walls, increased several times in the fourteenth and perhaps in the fifteenth century. To the east of the church was built a brick wall on a stone foundation, reinforced with buttress. In its sequence was placed a tower originally housing the entrance gate. To the church from the west adjoins the main, northern monastery wing, connecting it with the Mestwin Tower. Originally it was a two-storey and two-bay structure with rooms covered with wooden ceilings and illuminated with large ogival windows. Its south elevation was decorated on the ground and first floor with ogival blendes, there was also a portal leading to the communication porch. The blende decoration was on a triangular western gable too. In the fourteenth century, a two-storey west wing was also built, adjacent to the north wing and two-storey thirteenth century east wing, not connected with the church. Few remains indicate that both were decorated with gothic gables at shorter sides and ogival blendes.
Domasłowski J., Kościół i dawny klasztor cysterek w Chełmnie, Warszawa 1983.
Webpage icimss.edu.pl, Chełmno Zespół klasztorny pocysterski, ob. SS. Miłosierdzia.