Copernicus’ House, Toruń
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Zdjęcie panoramiczne tej lokalizacji jest niedostępne.

photo

The Copernicus’ House is a model example of a house from the Hanseatic period, combining both residential and storage functions, its surviving period silhouette, interior layout, architectural decorations as well as fixtures and fittings making it stand out among other buildings of its kind. In addition, the house also retains a substantial historical value due to its links with Nicolaus Copernicus, the eminent Polish astronomer. The building is situated in the area inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list which also forms part of the monument of history designated as “Toruń - Old and New Town District”.

Historia

The very first buildings located on Kopernika street have been erected before the town was even chartered. Once the town boundaries became more or less fixed, the erstwhile Św. Anny street (St Anne street) remained one of the main routes leading from the parish church square to the Starotoruńska Gate (the Old Toruń Gate), which served as the only gatehouse in the western section of the city walls. The site of the brick townhouse was originally occupied by a wooden log house. The first masonry structures were erected on this parcel of land in the late 13th/early 14th century. The buildings in question were two single-storey townhouses, which were subsequently merged into one in the 14th century. Their first documented owner was Herbord Platte, a cloth merchant, mentioned in a tax register dating back to 1394. In the first quarter of the 15th century, the edifice was redesigned, attaining the form of a spacious, three-storey townhouse with a stepped gable. The townhouse followed the typical design principles of the day, combining both residential and storage functions. The front suite of rooms contained a large vestibule wherein the stairs leading up to the first floor as well as the kitchen hood were located. The room located in the rear suite served as an office. A part of the rear suite of rooms was taken up by a passage leading out into the yard. The rear suite of rooms at the first-floor level served residential functions, while the front section served as a storage facility, much like all the remaining storeys along with the garret. The townhouse came equipped with a tall semi-basement linked to the stoop positioned in front of the building. The presence of a fireplace in the cellar may suggest that at least parts of it was made available to tenants and served residential purposes. A single-storey back building linked to the downstairs office as well as a three-storey granary occupied the back section of the yard. During the first half of the 15th century, the townhouse remained in the hands of various merchants engaging in long-distance cloth trade. In 1459, the house was purchased from Szymon Falbrecht by Lucas I Watzenrode, the grandfather of Nicolaus Copernicus. The Copernicus family moved into the townhouse on St Anne street after Lucas himself died in 1462. Unfortunately, due to the incompleteness of the available documentation, one cannot be certain whether Nicolaus Copernicus the younger was born in the townhouse in question, or in another building at 36 Old Town Market Square, which also remained the property of the family at the time. However, what is certain is that the townhouse on St Anne street was sold by Nicolaus Copernicus the elder - the famous astronomer’s father - to Georg Polnische in 1480, seven years after Nicolaus Copernicus the younger was born.

During the early modern period, the edifice underwent some minor alterations. Towards the end of the 16th century, a new staircase and gallery with wooden balustrades were added inside the grand vestibule, with additional, small rooms being formed through the addition of wooden partitions. In the 17th century, the side building was extended, with the layout of the windows in the rear façade being partially modified. Meanwhile, the storage rooms in the front section of the building were being gradually converted into representational and residential rooms, as evidenced by the interior décor of the drawing room in the rear suite on the first floor, its design clearly influenced by the principles of the Classicist style. In the 19th century, the building was converted into a multi-family tenement house, which resulted in significant changes to both the interior layout and the design of its staircases and hallways.

In 1972, the townhouse underwent a comprehensive renovation, with the more recent interior partitions being removed and the front façade being restored to its former glory, looking almost exactly as it did back in the 1420s.

Description

The townhouse is located in the southern section of the Old Town district, forming part of the southern frontage of the Kopernika street, between the Żeglarska and Św. Ducha streets.

It was designed on an L-shaped plan, consisting of the front section as well as the elongated, tripartite back building on the western side of the lot. The townhouse follows a two-bay layout, with a grand vestibule in the front suite of rooms as well as a rectangular office in the rear suite, with an adjacent narrow passage positioned on the eastern side thereof, leading out into the yard. The western outbuilding is connected to the front section by means of a doorway at the western edge of the rear façade.

Cellars are present beneath both the front building and the outbuilding. The main body of the townhouse is a three-storey structure with a four-storey garret, covered by a tall gable roof. The buildings located in the backyard are two- and three-storey structures.

The front façade follows a three-axial layout at the vestibule level, with the upper section thereof featuring a seven-axial layout. A pointed-arch archivolt portal preceded by a flight of steps is positioned on the middle axis of the ground-floor level. The portal is graced by a wimperg, supported by a pair of stone corbels. The wimperg is flanked by a pair of slender pinnacles surmounted by fleurons. The entrance door is flanked by a pair of large windows set into profiled, archivolt niches topped with settlement arches. Small openings positioned inside segment-headed niches - remnants of the former extended passageways leading into the cellar (the so-called “cellar necks” - Kellerhälse) - are positioned at the edges of the front façade. Above the ground-floor level runs a painted frieze framed by a pair of cornices, its surface adorned with a monochromatic, ornamental pattern.

The axes of the first and second storey are defined by a rhythmic arrangement of niches with profiled edges, topped with a row of triangular pediments adorned with fleurons. A segmented frieze, interrupted by the profiled edges of the niches, runs across the façade, separating the first and the second storey. The second, fourth and sixth niche (counting from the eastern side) incorporate rectangular windows with wooden lintels, while the other niches are adorned with faux tracery painted on the plaster-covered surface. A stepped gable rises above the profiled cornice, its surface partitioned with seven pointed-arch blind windows. The individual steps of the gable are topped with crenellation. Four stacked rows of small, rectangular windows arranged in an alternating pattern punctuate the slender blind windows of the gable. The window openings are obscured by planked shutters. The surface of the blind windows themselves is adorned with faux tracery comprising painted lancets and rosettes, the latter incorporating fish bladder motifs.

The rear façade is partially obscured by the side building. In the western part of the ground-floor level there is a pronounced window opening, roughly square in shape, above which rises an arch designed to ensure proper load distribution across the wall. On the eastern side of the façade there is a rectangular doorway with an overlight. Both openings feature wooden lintels. The façade at the first- and second-floor level features a three-axial layout. The first-floor windows are full-sized items, whereas the second-floor window openings are much smaller and filled by planked shutters.

The entire façade is crowned with a triangular gable separated from the rest of the structure by a frieze with a plaster finish. The gable features four pointed-arch blind windows in a stepped arrangement, with the two middle ones being of equal height. Above them rises another, single blind window, topped with a pointed arch and much lower than all the rest. The blind windows positioned above the frieze incorporate segment-headed window openings with planked shutters. The second easternmost blind window incorporates two identical windows providing illumination to the upper storeys of the building.

Inside, the period fixtures and fittings include the original stairs and gallery in the grand vestibule, equipped with lavishly designed wooden balustrades, as well as the polychromed beamed ceilings and wall paintings from various historical periods.

The façades of the back buildings are divided with string courses. The northern and middle buildings feature rectangular windows. The northern façade of the middle section is topped with a gable adorned with a decorative fractable featuring a volute-shaped silhouette and crowned with a triangular pediment. The southern building is a three-storey structure, its façades punctuated by window openings and blind windows, all of them topped with segmental arches.

The site is open to visitors. Branch of the Regional Museum in Toruń. Detailed information can be found on the following website: http://www.muzeum.torun.pl

compiled by Piotr Dąbrowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Toruń, 14-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Jasiński T., Dom rodzinny Mikołaja Kopernika. Przyczynek do studiów nad socjotopografią późnośredniowiecznego miasta, “Kwartalnik Historyczny” 1985, no. 4, pp. 861-884.
  • Nawrocki Z., Kamienica przy ul. Kopernika 15 w Toruniu, “Rocznik Muzeum w Toruniu” vol. VII:1980, pp. 37-62.

General information

  • Type: residential building
  • Chronology: XIII/XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kopernika 15, Toruń
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district Toruń, commune Toruń
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

Licence:

report issue with this site

Geoportal Map

Google Map

See also in this area