Toruń – church of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist


   The first parish church was probably built shortly after the relocation of the old merchant settlement to the place of today’s Toruń in 1236. It was probably destroyed during a city fire during the reign of the Teutonic Land Master Ludwig von Baldensheim in the 1260s. The construction of a second, larger church could already be undertaken in the 70s, with the intensification of works sometimes being placed at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. First, a new chancel was erected and then, after the demolition of the first church, a three-aisle hall structure was added to it. The appearance of the western part is unknown, but it is generally accepted that a square tower was adjacent to the western facade. Construction works had to be completed before 1330, because the ringer is mentioned from this period. In 1338, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Dytrk von Altenburg, appointed master Jan of Biskupice and cleric Bando in the church as pflegers of the order for the Polish-Teutonic trial, which was to begin a year later in Warsaw.
   The next phase of the construction of the church was connected with its reconstruction after the city fire in 1351. By the beginning of the 15th century the body was extended by one bay, a new tower from the west and a series of side chapels by the northern aisle were built, and the central nave was raised giving the church the shape of a pseudo-basilic. In the 15th century the church received its final shape, preserved until today. In the years 1475-1480 the southern chapel was added. The great, massive tower of the church was erected in the eighties of the 15th century in the place of the previous one, which partially collapsed and was demolished. Most of all, however, the body of the nave was raised to the present height, and was covered with a stellar vault.
Since the 16th century, when Toruń became a Protestant town, the church was jointly and alternately used by Protestants and Catholics, and again from 1596 only by Catholics. The Toruń cathedral was not affected during the 20th century warfare.


   The church, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture on the Chełmno land, has the form of a three-aisle hall with a lower chancel and side chapels. From the west is located a massive, four-sided tower, whose western façade is separated by a deep recess, passes through its entire height. This concept was to be even more effective, because it was planned to build a fourth storey, on which the recess would be closed with an arcade. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, and probably also financial difficulties, the idea was not implemented. At the sides of the tower adjoining lower annexes preceded by porches. On the northern side, in the fourteenth century, a large, three-bay sacristy with high-class figural corbels was placed.
   The chancel has an irregular shape incompatible with the axis of the nave, which is probably the result of its addition to the previously erected nave from the first phase of construction. The northern wall of the chancel is slightly longer than the southern, while the eastern one is not parallel to the chancel arch and has a clearly curved transverse axis.
Inside the chancel has a cross-rib vault above the first and third bays and stellar over the middle one. This is one of the oldest examples of the stellar vault in the Teutonic state, on which perhaps it were modeled many subsequent churchesThey are in it stone corbels with symbols of four evangelists and the Lamb of God.
   The square bays of the nave have been covered with stellar vaults, but they are asymmetrical in the side aisles.
 Both rows of nave pillars are not parallel, the closer the presbytery, the more the distance between them increases. Their irregular spacing was aimed at visually eliminating the difference between the width of the second chancel from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries and the range of the nave, initially planned as narrower. Its original width had to be marked by the oldest chancel from the first half of the 13th century, and the central aisle corresponded to the first west tower, to which the western half-pillars were connected, the only one with a regular spacing. The pillars in the nave received a characteristic cross-like plan, but instead of lesenes or semi-columns, half-pillars with bevelled corners were placed on their longitudinal axis. Smaller half-pillars on the transverse axis were given a pentagonal form and are flanked by pairs of ancillary columns.

Current state

    From the second phase of the church construction from the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century, the chancel as well as the walls and pillars of the three eastern bays of the nave halfway up have been preserved. Other elements come from the time of reconstruction from the second half of the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries, and the whole is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the Chełmno Land, devoid of early modern and present interferences. Inside the church has Gothic paintings from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, medieval sculptures and the pride of the cathedral, a powerful Tuba Dei bell from 1500, weighing seven tons .

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Mroczko T., Architektura gotycka na ziemi chełmińskiej, Warszawa 1980.

Walczak M., Kościoły gotyckie w Polsce, Kraków 2015.
Website, Bazylika katedralna św. Jana Chrzciciela i św. Jana Ewangelisty w Toruniu.