The construction of one of the oldest brick churche in the Teutonic state began in 1246 by the Dominicans, after obtaining permission from the Land Master of the Teutonic Order Hermann Balk. First a chancel and sacristy were erected and two small annexes adjacent to the sacristy from the west. At the end of the thirteenth century, the nave of the church was built, the chancel was raised along with the chancel arch, and it was covered with a cross-rib vault. From the outside, buildings were strengthened with buttresses and the eastern gable was completed. In the mid-fourteenth century, a southern nave was erected, as well as a monastery cloister, adjacent to the church building from the north.
In 1504 the church burned down, the vaults, roof and both gables of the church were destroyed, only the chancel and probably a significant part of the walls of the nave survived. Reconstruction began, connected with the raising of the southern nave to the height of the older one. At that time, both naves were covered with one roof, and the net vaults of the nave were also created. At the same time, the roof of the presbytery was lowered and both gables were reconstructed.
In the first half of the 16th century, the development of the Reformation in Elbląg led to the fall of the Dominican monastery. In 1542, both the monastery and the church were taken over by the city council. From that moment until 1945, the church played the role of the main Protestant temple in the city, and therefore some equipment was replaced in accordance with the needs of the new liturgy (including the construction of a gallery in the southern nave).
At the end of the 18th century, the gable of the chancel was lowered and, together with the sacristy, covered with a common roof. In the 1880s, the church was renovated in a romantic spirit. The interior of the nave and choir was covered with a neo-Gothic polychrome, the chancel arch was moved to align it with the axis of the nave, and in the ground floor part of the southern wall six window openings received a neo-Gothic frames. At this stage, the western vestibule received the form of a neo-Gothic porch flanked by two projections. The southern porch received a similar neo-Gothic decor. During the warfare of the Second World War, the building was severely damaged, the chancel with the sacristy and the cloister only have survived. The reconstruction was carried out from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The church together with the monastery buildings surrounding the inner cloister garth were built in the north-west part of the Old Town of Elbląg. A courtyard with economic buildings on the west side and a cemetery adjoined it. The church was erected on a quadrangle plan, initially as an aisleless building with a four-bay nave and an elongated, slightly narrower rectangular chancel. On the north side, a sacristy and two annexes adjoining it from the west were attached to the chancel. The whole building was supported with buttresses, between which tall pointed windows were pierced. Inside the presbytery was crowned with a four-bay rib-cross vault, while the nave probably had a wooden ceiling.
In the mid-fourteenth century, the lower south aisle was built, thanks to which the building gained an interesting, asymmetrical appearance. It was separated from the main nave by arcades based on three massive pillars. Originally, the naves had a separate roof, only at the beginning of the 16th century, after raising the walls of the southern nave, they were covered with a common roof, thanks to which the building gained the shape of a two-aisle hall. During this period, the interior of the nave was crowned with a late-Gothic net vault.
To this day, the rebuilt church building, the southern wing of the cloister, the ruins of the western part of the economic courtyard and a fragment of the northern wall of the monastery buildings, separating the later cemetery area, have survived. The church is available to visitors, its interior now serves as gallery exhibition halls.
Mroczko T., Architektura gotycka na ziemi chełmińskiej, Warszawa 1980.
Website zabytek.pl, Kościół dominikański pw. Najświętszej Marii Panny Elbląg.