Church of Holy Spirit was built as part of the hospital complex, the foundation of which was confirmed in 1242 by the papal legate William of Modena. In 1277, bishop Johannes of Riga granted the hospital an indulgence, and in 1281, the bishop of Chełmno Werner asked for contributions to the hospital in Elbląg in order to be able to support the sick, poor, newcomers and travelers who came in large numbers from neighboring countries, for which he granted a 40-day indulgence.
After the loss of the Holy Land at the end of the 13th century, Elbląg became the seat of the Teutonic Oberstspittler, and the Holy Spirit Hospital was made the main hospital of the Teutonic Knights state. It was connected with the expansion of hospital buildings and the erection of a brick church of Holy Spirit. The work on it was probably completed before 1336, because then the hospital brickyard was leased, and its production was intended for other purposes. In 1344, Grand Master Ludolf König enriched the institution with a generous grant, which included, among others, the parish church in Tolkmicko.
In 1457, during the Thirteen Years’ War, the hospital complex became the property of the town. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the church was called “Polish”, because its parish gathered many Polish Evangelicals from Elbląg and its suburbs. There was also a school at the church. In 1620 and 1774 its repairs were carried out, the latter of which were related to the partial collapse of the vault. After the destruction of World War II, the church was rebuilt in 1945-1979.
The hospital church was built of bricks in a monk bond on a erratic-stone foundation. It was created as an aisleless structure on a rectangular plan with a length of 27.5 meters and a width of about 11 meters, without an externally separated chancel. On the west side was the main hospital building, the so-called “Great Hhouse”, to which from the south was added a wing called “Great Room”. On the south side, a large courtyard adjoined the church and the hospital, adjacent to the moat separating the town from the castle. The courtyard was surrounded by a wall connected to the church and hospital.
The interior of the church was originally divided into four bays covered with a cross-rib vault, therefore, from the outside, the walls were reinforced with narrow and flat buttresses, in the corners located at an angle. The lighting was provided by five narrow, pointed windows pierced in the northern wall, two in the southern wall and one in the axis of the eastern wall. The entrance was provided by single portals from the north and south.
The gable roof of the church rested on triangular gables. The eastern gable was divided by three wide blendes with pointed heads, arranged in a pyramidal layput (two lateral ones lower than the middle one). The edges of the blendes were decorated with moulding, and small, slit openings illuminating the attic were embedded in their plastered fields. The simple form of the gable corresponded to the early period of church construction.
Due to war damages, the church had to undergo far-reaching reconstruction works. Large fragments of the perimeter walls and gables have been reconstructed, but the building still has a Gothic character (no southern buttresses or a vault have been preserved). Its interior has been adapted to serve as the seat of a public library. The medieval houses of the hospital were completely rebuilt.
Herrmann C., Mittelalterliche Architektur im Preussenland, Petersberg 2007.
Nawrolska G., Rozwój przestrzenny Elbląga w średniowieczu i okresie wczesnonowożytnym, “Archaeologia Historica Polona”, tom 23, 2015.