The founder of the church was the grand master of the Teutonic Order Dietrich von Altenburg. The exact date of the beginning of the construction of the church cannot be determined, it is only known that at the time of the foundation of the town in 1341 a parish priest was appointed and his income was determined. Presumably, construction began this year.
After the defeat of the Teutonic Order at Grunwald in 1410, the Polish army also captured Lębork. Perhaps the recently completed church of St. James was damaged then. Under the peace agreement concluded in Toruń in 1411, the entire Gdańsk Pomerania together with Lębork was again in the possession of the Order, and the Teutonic Knights quickly rebuilt and strengthened Lębork, for fear of the Słupsk prince. The church of St. James was also rebuilt.
In the 16th century, after the Reformation was introduced in Pomerania, the church began to function as a Protestant temple. After the death of Bogusław XIV, the last representative of the Gryfit dynasty in 1637, and the return of the Lębork region to the Polish kingdom, the bishop of Kujawy restored the Catholic liturgy.
In 1658, the town was set on fire by the Swedes, as a result of which the church lost its roof and vaults of the nave and presbytery. Rebuilding was taking a long time. In 1682, building materials were still collected, and until 1702 only the chancel was renovated, covered with a temporary ceiling and provided with the eastern wall so that mass could be celebrated. The nave was renovated only in the middle of the 18th century. The tower was lowered by 1-2 meters, wooden ceilings were laid and the roof was covered with tiles. Further renovations had to be carried out in the nineteenth century, due to damages caused by a several-day hurricane of 1818. A thorough renovation was carried out in the years 1907 – 1910. New vaults were built then, inter-nave pillars were rebuilt, window divisions were reconstructed, the southern porch and annex on the north-west side were added, and the tower hip roof was unnecessarily replaced by neo-Gothic gables.
The church of St. James was built of bricks laid in the monk bond, as a building orientated towards the side of the world, hall, three-aisle, four-bay. The nave was erected on a rectangular plan, and from the east a lower, three-bay chancel with the width of the central nave was added, closed with a straight wall. On the opposite side, in the middle of the church facade, a four-sided tower was situated, and sacristy at the junction of the northern aisle and the chancel.
The external façades of the church were lined with buttresses determining the division of the building into bays. They received stepped forms, reaching the height of the plastered frieze, set at an angle at the corners. Between the buttresses were pointed ogival windows with moulded frames with faults and half-shafts. At the height of the window crownings (on the southern side of the nave) there was a row of small niches with plastered backgrounds, the above-mentioned frieze, and between the frieze and the eaves of the roof a gallery with densely spaced, pointed and circular plastered niches with a half-shafts in the mouldings. A small hole was pierced in each, probably with a defensive function. The top of the eastern wall of the nave was enlivened with long ogival blendes, while the division of the chancel façades received a similar form as the nave, only without a gallery of recesses due to the lower height of the choir. A very decorative shape was given to the gable of the eastern wall of the chancel – a three-stepped, horizontally divided with plastered strips, and vertically with ogival niches and flat lesenes, topped with pinnacles.
Several entrances led to the church, of which the main one with a spacious vestibule under the tower was located on the west side. Inside, the original hexagonal pillars divided the nave’s space into three aisles. Their role was to support ogival, moulded arcades and vaults, reconstructed in a stellar form. The vaults also originally received three rectangular, narrow bays of the presbytery and the sacristy, where diamond vault was established in two bays.
Kal E., Lębork, Warszawa 1993.
Website lebork.franciszkanie.pl, Pismo przedstawiające historię kościoła p.w. Św. Jakuba Apostoła w Lęborku.