Medieval Town of Toruń, Toruń
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl
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Toruń remains an outstanding witness of European history of the medieval period. The history of the town is linked to the Teutonic Order, which became involved in the process of the Christianisation of the pagan peoples that occupied this part of the continent. The town was also one of the most important members of the Hanseatic League within the territories controlled by the Order. The Hanseatic League was an alliance of market towns which made a significant contribution towards the reinvigoration of the commercial exchange between the Baltic states and the eastern part of Europe.

The entry on the World Heritage List encompasses three parts of this town, which still retains its medieval lineage: the ruins of the Teutonic Order castle, the Old Town and the New Town. The entire town, surrounded with defensive walls, forms a unique complex of structures the distinguishing feature of which is the coexistence of two distinct urban areas which have been formed at virtually the same time.

The castle, built on a horseshoe-shaped floor plan, sustained major damage during the uprising against the Teutonic Order which took place in 1454. Even though it has only survived in the form of a permanent ruin, the castle remains an outstanding material testimony to the bygone might of the Teutonic Order.

The Old Town, established in 1233, grew on to become a trading centre, while the New Town, tracing its roots back to 1264, served as a hub for various forms of handicraft. Both towns boasted numerous works of sophisticated architecture; among those, the churches, the town hall and brick tenement houses featuring highly diverse shapes and facade designs deserve a particular attention. As in the case of other tenement houses built in the region, those in Toruń also combined residential and commercial functions, with some of the spaces inside being used for storage purposes. Fascinating feature are the brick granaries, some of which had as many as five storeys.

The factor which makes Toruń so valuable is the remarkable authenticity of its medieval urban layout. The historic substance of many buildings, including churches, defensive walls and smaller walls which marked the course of the boundaries between individual plots of land has largely been preserved. Many tenement houses retain their original façades, interior partition walls, plasterwork ceilings, vaulted basement ceilings and painted decorations. One should emphasise that the architectural elements originating from later epochs have not adulterated the medieval character of the town, serving as clearly distinguishable and harmonious added layers which illustrate the subsequent stages of its development.

The birth of Copernicus in 1473 also adds to the town’s importance. A museum dedicated to the famous astronomer was established at the house in which he was born, located in the Old Town.

The Medieval Town of Toruń was included on the World Heritage List in 1997 during the 21st session of the World Heritage Committee in Naples (dec. CONF 208 VIII.C).

Entry made on the basis of criteria II and IV:

Criterion (II):

The small historic medieval trading and administrative city of Toruń preserves to a remarkable extent its original street pattern and outstanding early buildings. It set a standard for the evolution of towns in this region during Eastern Europe’s urbanisation process in the 13th and 14th centuries. The combination of two towns with a castle is a rare form of medieval settlement agglomeration that has survived almost intact, and numerous buildings of considerable intrinsic value have been faithfully preserved within the town. In its heyday, Toruń boasted a wide range of architectural masterpieces, which exerted a powerful influence on the whole of the Teutonic state and the neighbouring countries.

Criterion (IV):

Toruń provides an exceptionally complete picture of the medieval way of life. Its spatial layout provides valuable source material for research into the history of urban development in medieval Europe, and many of its buildings represent the highest achievements in medieval ecclesiastical, military, and civil brick-built architecture.

The property is accessible to visitors.

Compiled on the basis of materials of the National Heritage Board of Poland 30-11-2015

General information

  • Type: cultural
  • Chronology: XIII - XX w.
  • Form of protection:
  • Address: Toruń
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district Toruń, commune Toruń
  • Copyright owner: National Heritage Board of Poland

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