The earliest houses in the urban development of Toruń were wooden or half-timbered. The first brick Gothic tenements began to rise in the Old Town of Toruń from the second half of the 13th century, and already in the 14th century the brick buildings were widespread. With the increase in the wealth of the merchant town, the development of trade and transport in Toruń, began to also build a granaries. Already in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there were about thirty of them in the Old Town, and in the seventeenth century, during the peak of the grain trade, there were more than a hundred of them. It was then that Toruń was one of the largest centers of grain trade in Kingdom of Poland. Most of them were located in the southern part of the Old Town, where the goods were transported from ships.
In the following centuries, medieval granaries and houses were transformed, which included the change of the function of higher storeys into storehouses, the change of façade decorations, or new furnishings and arrangement of rooms. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought the greatest annihilation of the Toruń Gothic houses. The siege of Toruń by the Swedish Swedish army in 1703 and the Napoleonic wars caused devastation and the collapse of urban development. Throughout the nineteenth century, there was a devastating process of rebuilding many old buildings or building new houses in their place, which was stoppped only in the 20th century after the conservation of monuments has been initiated.
Among the Toruń gothic houses there are two types: a merchant house and usually larger, and a much more modest and narrower craftsman’s house. Medieval houses connected the functions of a house and a granary. Storage rooms were on the upper floors of the buildings, which was a characteristic feature of the buildings of the North European type. A typical element of Toruń’s medieval townhouses was also the so-called high hall. It was in the front of the ground floor and reached two storeys. As the largest room in the whole building, it had a fireplace, where meals were prepared, served as a place for hand-making and handicrafts. In the fifteenth century, overhanging galleries and chambers were built in high halls. Rooms on the ground floor of the back bay performed representative functions, decent and distinguished guests were greeting there. In the floors of such rooms, there were furnace outlets of the hypocaustum type, located in basements. These rooms were warmed, additionally richly decorated with wall and ceiling paintings. Similar functions held rooms on the first floor in the rear.
In the interior walls of many medieval tenements were different types of niches. Some had ornamental forms, others smaller ones were used as hinged lockers with wooden doors, in others were placed lighting or very often washbasins with drainage out were placed. Basins with water were hung on the metal hooks.
The cellars of medieval tenement houses were lower than the current level of streets, they were basements whose level was only about half a meter lower than the street level. Many of the cellars were inhabited, but they served mainly as cool warehouses, beer halls or wineries.
The fronts of the tenement houses were basement necks and stoops, or one-storey terraces preceding the entrance of the building. The facades of Toruń’s Gothic houses had gables in the stepped form. Blossoms, mostly decorative, varied with moulded niches, pinnacles, blendes, filled with ornamental paint in typical Gothic motifs, tracery, etc. The colors usually oscillated around red, white, black and glazed bricks, green or red.
In Toruń’s Gothic houses, there were also wells for drawing water, found in the cellars of the houses. They were originally built in the courtyards, but during the subsequent medieval transformations of the tenement or the construction of a new one, they were incorporated into the houses.
New Town of Toruń owing to its craftsmanship has a much smaller number of granaries. Also, the medieval tenement houses of the New Town, compared to the Old Town, were much more modest and represented the type of small craft house, usually one storey, narrow and with gables.
In Toruń has preserved most of the medieval patrician houses and granaries in the territory of the Hanseatic League. Despite numerous damages and destructive transformations in the nineteenth century, many original and distinctive elements of the interior, ornaments and details, especially the Gothic façades of buildings, have survived. At present about 300 townhouses have a readable medieval layout and more or less visible elements of Gothic architecture. Many of the former granaries have survived to our times.
The best preserved buildings include: the tenement house at Holy Spirit 12 street, Copernicus 15 and 38 street, Łazienna 16 and 22, Mostowa 6, Piekary 4 and 9, Rabiańska 8 and 22A, Rynek Staromiejski 9, 17 and 20, Szczytna 2-4, Szeroka 38, Wielkie Garbary 7, Virgin Mary 2, Franciszkańska 12, Żeglarska 5, 7, 9, 10 and 13 streets and the house at Królowa Jadwiga 9 street, which despite the rebuilt façade has numerous Gothic polychromes inside. Townhouse at Copernicus street is also famous for being the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus astronomer. Today it houses a museum devoted to him. One of the oldest granaries is the Gothic building at Podmurna 1 street, in addition, the granary can be seen at Rabiańska 19 and 21, Łazienna 3, and at Franciszkańska 4 and 6 street. At Podmurna 4/6 there is a Gothic St. George’s Court, built on the old town zwinger, near the fortified tower.
Nawrocki Z, Historyczne kamienice w Toruniu. Gotyk, Toruń 2016.
Website turystyka.torun.pl, Toruńskie kamienice gotyckie.