Toruń Old Town

Toruń (German Thorn), the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, was founded in 1231 by the Teutonic Order and built in the style of North German brick Gothic. The old town is still largely preserved today, it is dominated by the Church of St. John. The remains of an order castle of the Teutonic Order lie between the old and new towns. Significant buildings include the Gothic town hall with the Copernicus monument and the Flößerbrunnen, the Artus Court and the Copernicus House.

Toruń Old Town: Facts

Official title: Old Town of Toruń (Thorn)
Cultural monument: medieval city, i.a. with defensive wall with monastery and sailor gate, crane tower and leaning tower, with the old town hall, the Artus court, the cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the former Evangelical Trinity Church, the former Jesuit College, the Copernicus Museum, the community center “Unter dem Stern” and the Rösnerhaus (around 1712)
Continent: Europe
Country: Poland
Location: Toruń (Thorn)
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: an extraordinary overall picture of a medieval (Hanseatic) city

Old town of Toruń: history

1233 Awarded city rights by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order
1267 Foundation of the new town
1274 Construction of the old town hall
1309-1424 Construction of the Jakobskirche by the Teutonic Order
1454 Destruction of the order castle
1466 Second Peace of Thorner at the end of the war between the Teutonic Order and Poland
1703-09 under Swedish occupation
1724 “Thorner Blutbad” as the climax of the dispute between Catholic and Protestant citizens of the city
1793 Occupation by Prussian troops
1806 Occupation by French troops
1815 Thorn becomes Prussian after the decision of the Congress of Vienna
1918 Incorporation in Poland
1946 Founding of the Nicolaus Copernicus University

The city of Copernicus

Unlike Krakow or Warsaw, the river in Toruń has always been a good friend. So it is not surprising that the city was once called the “Queen of the Vistula”. To this day, the river throws back the image of the medieval defensive walls, the brick-red gates and towers, the magnificent town houses, as it did centuries ago. The boulevard on the bank of the Vistula leads along the Gothic city fortresses to the ruins of the Deutschherrenburg, past the Leaning Tower, which is by no means exclusive to Pisa, and past the old granaries that still bear witness to the wealth of the former Hanseatic city. Although the port of Torun was far from the sea, the city developed into an important trading center within the Hanseatic League, the “inland port of the Baltic Sea”.

Nicolaus Copernicus, the 15th century astronomer, who stands in bronze in front of the Old Town Hall, is omnipresent. And he seems to patiently explain to passers-by that the earth revolves around the sun. In the Johanneskirche, one of the mightiest hall structures from the 13th century, it is remembered that little Nicholas was baptized here, and the Copernicus Museum is now in his parents’ house. The biggest change, however, was brought about by the Copernicus University, which was founded after the Second World War and has long been one of the best in the country. The street scene is no longer determined by traders and crusaders as in the Middle Ages, nor by merchants and soldiers as in the 18th and 19th centuries, but rather by professors and students.

The old town market with the monumental Gothic town hall is the lively focus yesterday as it is today. Diagonally opposite, in the Artus Court, the patricians met, and here the Second Thorner Peace was signed, with which Thorn returned under the Polish crown. But before that happened, the residents of the city experienced times of war between the Teutonic Order and the Polish monarchy. But it is not this eventful history that attracts the students and professors to the marketplace, but the irresistible scent of fresh gingerbread. “Kopernik” is the name of the shop on the market where the astronomer is sold as a treat. And also the Crusader of Salza and King Kazimierz the Great are made according to an old recipe of the house.

According to programingplease, city life was not always so harmonious: once the citizens of the city fell apart and fought a horrific battle in the so-called “Thorner Bloodbath” in the first half of the 18th century: Catholics here, Protestants there. It was the climax of the long-running dispute over the right to the main church in Thorner. With this bloody event, however, the city’s reputation as a haven of religious tolerance was finally destroyed.

The strategically important city was repeatedly attacked and occupied by foreign rulers – by Swedes, Prussians, Austrians, French, Russians and also Germans. But when such a danger threatened, the Thorner held together. After the defeated troops had withdrawn, they rebuilt the destroyed houses and churches again and again, if at all possible more splendidly than before. Only the castle of the Teutonic Order, which was destroyed by the townspeople in the 15th century, was to be preserved as a ruin – as a chilling memorial to the abuse of power. This was also the case in 1997 with the memorial that the Red Army erected to thank for the liberation of Toruń after the war. The Thorner decided that the ugly pillar of concrete and steel should be blown up and did not care about the diplomatic entanglements either, which this step entailed. Parts of the monument are now in the communal cemetery. In the original place, however, the water of a fountain disperses in the sun at a height of six meters and falls to the ground in a colorful shimmer.

Toruń Old Town