Monastic church of the Franciscan Order, currently serving as the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the blessed reverend Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, Toruń
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Monastic church of the Franciscan Order, currently serving as the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the blessed reverend Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski

Toruń

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The most impressive Gothic church in the Chełmno region, featuring a rectangular chancel - a nod towards the tradition of the mendicant orders - and a main body of the hall type, without a tower. In addition to a long and rich history, the church also remains a valuable example of medieval architecture, being in fact the very first hall church to be erected in the Pomerania region, while its interior fittings continue to bear testimony to the unparalleled artistry and craftsmanship of their makers.

History

The church, established by the Franciscan friars following their arrival in Toruń, was built in several stages, with the first series of works being carried out in 1243, while the very last of them took place in the late 14th century. The church in its current form dates back to the second half of the 14th century, being the third to be erected on this site; its predecessors were an aisleless church from the mid-13th century as well as a two-nave, asymmetrical hall church erected in the fourth quarter of the 13th century. In the third quarter of the 14th century, the main body of the hall church was completed, while the rectangular, four-bay chancel was added in the fourth quarter of the 14th century, its width and height identical to that of the central nave. In years 1798-99, the chancel roof was lowered, while the existing, single roof of the main body replaced the separate roofs which had once covered the nave and the side aisles.

In years 1557-1724, the church was owned by the local Protestant community; later on, it came under the administration of the Bernardine monks, who continued to run the church until 1821.

In 1568, the monastery buildings adjoining the northern side of the church were adapted to serve as a Protestant lower-secondary school (gymnasium). Notable graduates of that school included Adam Freytag, Samuel Tomasz Sömmering and Samuel Bogumił Linde. Most of the monastery buildings were torn down in 1822. In 1831, the church was entrusted to the Chełmno diocese and began to serve as a parish church.

In years 1890 -1895, the walls of the church were secured against further damage, as was its roof surfaces and truss as well as the vaulted ceilings inside. The existing roof cladding was replaced with new, S-shaped roof tiles. In 1966, the original painted decorations of the main nave, located on its northern wall, have been discovered and subsequently restored. Later on, in 1992, additional wall paintings were discovered inside the northern aisle (second bay from the west). In 1994, a series of works was carried out which resulted in the chancel flooring being brought back to the same level as in the 14th century; in addition, clean-up and refurbishment works were carried out in the underground section of the church, with the crypt of Anna Vasa of Sweden being reopened. The mausoleum has also undergone renovation works.

In years 2011-2013, another series of conservation works was carried out, this time encompassing the main façades (the northern, southern and western façades) as well as the main altarpiece. The reconstruction of the monastery buildings is now in progress.

Description

The parish church forms part of the Old Town district of the city of Toruń, standing inside a city block delimited by the Panny Marii, Piekary, Franciszkańska and Chełmińska streets, at the north-western corner of the Old Town Market Square, its longer side running in parallel to the Panny Marii street.

The three-nave Gothic church, oriented towards the east, was designed on an irregular, elongated rectangular plan with six bays and a rectangular chancel adjoined by a rectangular, three-bay sacristy and the chapel and mausoleum of Anna Vasa to the north. The northern aisle of the church is adjoined by monastery buildings. The perimeter wall of the monastery with an adjoining cloister reaches all the way to the south-eastern corner of the southern aisle.

The main body of the hall church and its chancel are covered by separate gable roofs. The two-storey sacristy is covered with a shed roof, while the mausoleum of Anna Vasa features a conical roof.

The church was constructed using bricks arranged in the so-called Gothic bond; inside, its walls are covered with plaster, although the surfaces of the splayed portal reveals are lined with exposed brick. The tall windows of the church are adorned with ceramic tracery. Both the main nave, the chancel and the southern aisle feature stellar vaults, with each of the individual sections of the vaulted ceiling inside the nave, chancel and southern aisle being shaped as a six-pointed, eight-pointed and four-pointed star respectively.

The façades of the main body and the chancel are positioned on stone foundations and feature tall, pointed-arch windows with tracery decoration, creating a uniform rhythm of vertical divisions; most of the windows feature a tripartite layout, with quadripartite and pentapartite windows being present only on the main axes of the church. A frieze incorporating a quatrefoil motif runs at the top of the façade, with the drip cornice running at the window sill level dividing the façades horizontally. The western façade follows a three-axial layout, with a triangular gable partitioned with lesenes and pointed-arch windows. A profiled entrance portal is positioned on the middle axis of the façade. The southern façade of the main body of the church follows a six-axial layout and features a profiled portal flanked by a pair of pinnacles positioned on the third axis (counting from the west). A curtain wall separating the monastery site from the Panny Marii street forms an extension of the lower section of the church façade, leading away from the church towards the east. The wall is crowned with a crenellated parapet enriched with pinnacles positioned above the profiled, pointed-arch gateways which adjoin the gatekeeper’s house positioned towards the east. A cloister adorned with a row of decorative pediments with volute-shaped edges runs alongside the inner side of the curtain wall. The overall rhythm of vertical divisions of the chancel façades is defined by a dense arrangement of buttresses flanking the tall, slender windows of the church. The eastern chancel façade features an imposing, pentapartite window flanked by tripartite blind windows. The front façade is crowned with a tall gable dating back to ca. 1400, consisting of three octagonal turrets, their walls adorned with pointed-arch blind windows.

The interior of the church impresses the onlookers with its monumental design and the emphasis on verticality, which makes a particularly powerful impression given its immense height of 27 metres in total. The slender, octagonal pillars adorned with narrow wall ribs linked by small, profiled arcades serve as support for the stellar vaults above.

The interior fixtures and fittings include both Gothic and early modern items.

Inside the southern aisle, the interior wall buttresses are adorned by an ensemble of Gothic wall paintings dating back to ca. 1380-1390, ranking among the most monumental of all painted decorations in Eastern Pomerania.

Numerous examples of fine Gothic wood-carved fittings include the choir stalls on both sides of the chancel - dating back to the early 15th century and featuring lavish tracery decorations - as well as the north gallery balustrade, crafted out of dark oakwood in the early 15th century.

A number of Mannerist wood-carved fixtures and fittings - such as the pulpit from 1605 or the oldest pipe organ casing in Poland, dating back to the late 16th century - originate from the period when the church remained in the hands of the Protestant community. The rest of the fixtures and fittings date back to the period when the church came under the administration of the Bernardine monks and include the Late Baroque, wood-carved rood arch and eight altarpieces from the third and fourth decades of the 18th century. In addition, there are also four Mannerist epitaph plaques of various members of the Toruń patriciate.

The mausoleum of Anna Vasa of Sweden, added to the chancel in 1636, is situated inside a large, arcaded recess, framed with a monumental, Early Baroque portal made of black marble and adorned with the Vasa coat of arms. Inside the mausoleum, an alabaster recumbent tomb effigy of Anna Vasa rests on a tall plinth, its author being the renowned Gdańsk-based sculptor Wilhelm Richter.

The structure is accessible all year round.

compiled by Marzenna Stocka, National Heritage Board of Poland Regional Branch in Toruń, 14-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Domasłowski J., Jarzewicz J., Kościół Najświętszej Marii Panny W Toruniu, Toruń 1998
  • Błażejewska A., Kluczwajd K., Pilecka E., Tylicki J., Dzieje Sztuki Torunia, 2009, pp. 47-49
  • Diecezja toruńska. Historia i teraźniejszość, T.15/16/17, Dekanaty toruńskie, Toruń 1995, pp. 178-195
  • www.wnmptorun.diecezja.torun.pl

General information

  • Type: church
  • Chronology: 1243 - kon. XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Panny Marii 4, Toruń
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district Toruń, commune Toruń
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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