Toruń – church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


    Church of the Assumption was built as a monastery church of the Franciscan Order. They arrived in Toruń in 1239. In 1243 a synod with the papal legate William of Modena took place, so perhaps some of the buildings had been built until then. During the 13th and 14th centuries the church and the monastery were expanded, especially after the city fire in 1351. The temple was the first in Pomerania, of a form of not fragmented hall with so much height and momentum. Many architectural features, the concept of block and interiors, were innovative models for the construction of other temples, including the one hundred years later the St. Mary’s church in Gdańsk.
Since the beginning of the 16th century the number of new monks has decreased as a result of the Reformation. In the middle of the 16th century, the monastery became the property of the town, and in 1565 a evangelical school was built, which in 1568 was transformed into a gymnasium. As a result of the so-called Toruń Tumult from 1724 the church, which until then was the main protestant temple of the city, was taken away from the lutherans and passed to the Bernardines. In 1798 against the threat of a construction disaster, the gothic richly decorated gables over the aisles and the triple roofs were dismantled, and the present one gable roof over the whole body and new gables were built. In 1821, the Bernardine convent was dissoluted, and a year later most monastery buildings were dismantled. At the end of the nineteenth century, necessary repairs were carried out at the church.


    The first church from the middle of the 13th century was a rectangular building about 20 meters long, about 9 meters wide and 12 meters high. On the north, today’s sacristy was attached to it, in its original form one-storeyed and ended straight from the east.
   The second church built from around 1269 to the second decade of the fourteenth century was a two-nave asymmetrical hall building with a chancel on the main nave axis, which was much wider than the southern aisle. From the north, the cloister was attached to the nave, over which the gallery was built in the fourteenth century, thus creating a northern aisle at the floor level. The chancel arch leading to the presbytery was preceded by a rood screen, which existence is confirmed by traces of a gothic portal in the northern wall of the eastern bay of the nave. Both the original width, as well as the length and form of the end of the chancel of the second church are unknown. The latter, however, could have a polygonal form, which is evidenced by the demolition of the last preserved eastern bay of the second church made only in half with part of the window left. If the last bay was closed straight, it would be enough to extend it eastwards during expansion, while demolition would be necessary at polygonal closing.

   In the third quarter of the fourteenth century, the last major rebuilding of the church was carried out, as a result of which it reached the form of a three-nave (two-nave in the ground floor), towerless hall with a gallery in the northern aisle. The chancel received an elongated, rectangular shape with significant dimensions, and above all a large height, equal to the nave (27 meters). Its construction was based on earlier traditional schemes, although the buttresses in the corners were reduced. This was possible due to the strong thickening of the eastern wall, which was a solid foundation for the extended structure of the eastern gable. It was crowned with three octagonal towers, of which the middle one is higher than the others. The space between them was filled with small gables composed of pinnacles and wimpergs.

   The nave remained rectangular, with a compact shape, but it was extended westwards to a total of six bays. Originally it was covered by a triple roof. The windows in all facades received narrow and slender jambs closed with a sharp arch. The side walls of the chancel and the northern aisle were fastened with buttresses running almost the entire height of the facade. Buttresses in the southern wall of the nave were pulled inwards, which makes the external facade from this side smooth, pierced only by windows. A ceramic frieze with a quatrefoil motif led through all the facades.
   The interior of the church chancel was covered with stellar eight-pointed vaults. As the bays received considerable width, the shape of individual stars flattened. This particular arrangement and proportion of ribs has never been repeated anywhere else in the gothic architecture of Chełmno Land. In the nave also stellar but six-pointed vaults were established, while pulling the buttress of the southern aisle into the interior created deep recesses of the character of side chapels. Only the last western bay of the nave with a not very regular plan is devoid of an internal niche formed of buttresses, probably due to its later creation. Due to the conversion of the cloister into the aisle, the northern inter-nave supports were in the ground floor in the form of half-pillars attached to the wall, and only from the gallery level the full octagonal form. This solution gave the church a characteristic, individual look.
In the interior of the church are preserved 14th century polychrome and intricately carved oak stalls from the 15th century.
On the south side, on the extension of the outer wall of the corpus, on Panny Marii street, rises the wall with battlements and two arched gates. The buildings of the former Franciscan convent were built in a complex north of the church. Only a small fragment of the western wing, adjacent to the church, has survived.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Mroczko T., Architektura gotycka na ziemi chełmińskiej, Warszawa 1980.

Website, Kościół Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Marii Panny w Toruniu.