The church of Saints James and St Nicholas was established as a Franciscan monastery church. The brothers arrived in Chełmno in 1258 and, having powerful protectors, could afford to start construction works right away. They conducted them even in 1311, as evidenced by the will made by Adelaide Ullman, who saved one fine to support the construction of the church. After 1326, when the brothers purchased a plot adjacent to the church from the town, the chancel was enlarged and rebuilt. The temple was consecrated around 1346 by bishop Otton.
The Chełmno Franciscan convent broke up in the era of the Reformation. In 1539 there were no monks in the monastery, and bishop Tydeman Giese gave the buildings temporarily for the needs of the townspeople. The Franciscans reappeared in Chełmno around 1582, expanding the convent throughout the 17th century. The first Partition of Poland in 1772 was a tremendous shock for the monastery. On the special order of Prussian king Frederick Wilhelm III in 1806, the process of cassation of the Chełmno monastery begun.
In the years 1822-1828, the church temporarily belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, which later moved to the Cistercian monastery. After their departure, the rich interior of the temple was transferred to other churches, and the building was given to Protestants in 1859. Around 1859, the interior was renovated in the neo-Gothic style, and after 1881, Gothic paintings were found, which were later painted over and unveiled again in 2006-2007.
Work on the construction of the church was carried out in two stages. First, a temple was built with an equal height of naves and a two-bay chancel closed from the east by a straight wall. It was only during the later reconstruction from the first half of the fourteenth century that the central nave was raised to the height of 21.3 meters, giving the temple a pseudobasilica form. Also, the length of the chancel was extended by 8 meters, that is of one span, so that it would match its length with the naves. Finally, a three-nave building was erected on a rectangular plan with a narrower, rectangular presbytery on the eastern side and a four-sided, higher octagonal tower on the south side. The length of the interior was 49 meters, the width of the naves 16 meters, and the chancel 9.6 meters. The size of the choir, rebuilt after 1326, stands out, the widest and longest of all three-bay chancels in the Chełmno region (it has 24 meters of external length and nave 28 meters). From the north monastery buildings were adjoining to the church.
The naves obtained stellar vaults at the beginning of the third quarter of the fourteenth century: eight-pointed in the central nave and four-pointed in the aisles, while in the chancel, vaulted much earlier, a simple cross arrangement was used, decorated with unique bosses. The huge 621 m² temple vault was rested on four massive pillars, and its weight was distributed via ancillary columns to the perimeter walls, which were not only 1,4 meters thick, but were also supported by fifteen buttresses. However, the interior does not make an overwhelming impression. You can feel the harmony resulting from the symmetry and above all, the lightness of this architecture. This impression was achieved by ripping the plane of the walls with great thirteen windows.
At the same time as the vaults the western gable was overbuilt, which raises into the sky at a height of 42,4 meters (it repeated the composition of the gable of the chapel of St. Martin in Chełmno). Even higher is the octagonal, slender bell tower, built in the third quarter of the fourteenth century above the sacristy. Together with the crowning cross, it measures 54.5 meters along. At the transition from the quadrilateral to the octagon, a unique in the Chełmno Land motif of quadrilateral recesses, originally containing figures, open from two sides with ogival arcades supported on the corner column, was used.
The walls of the presbytery and nave in the Middle Ages were covered with beautiful figural paintings probably from the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Chrzanowski T., Kornecki M., Chełmno, Warszawa 1991.
Mroczko T., Architektura gotycka na ziemi chełmińskiej, Warszawa 1980.
Webpage odznaka.kuj-pom.bydgoszcz.pttk.pl, Kościół p.w. śś Jakuba i Mikołaja w Chełmnie.