date: 19.10.2017 current local time in Toruń:
  
Opinion research
How many times have you visited Toruń?
 
Toruń architectural style might be described as North European. It is particularly reminiscent of the style dominating on the south coast of the Northern Sea and the Baltic Sea, between Flanders and Riga. Toruń can boast a number of outstanding examples of Gothic architecture, which won the city the name of the richest complex of medieval burgher architecture in Poland and one of the most splendid in Europe.
 

 
 
 
 
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Northern Gothic
Gothic architecture by all means determines the aesthetic character of Toruń, the Chełmno Land and Pomerania. It reached its peak in the second and third quarter of the 13th century, when early Gothic structures were being erected, including Toruń city walls, the non-existent Dominican St Nicholas Church or the Teutonic Castle (the earliest castle in the Teutonic state, different from others in terms of its classic regular layout). The aforementioned structures (as well as Dominican churches in Gdańsk, Elbląg and Chełmno, along with Chełmża cathedral) were also the first brick Gothic structures in Pomerania.

Toruń Gothic is a part of the brick Gothic common in Northern Europe, which took its final form before 1300 on the area of eastern Holstein (Lübeck), Mecklenburg,
Brandenburg and soon spread all over Pomerania. It was especially popular in Hanseatic cities, including Toruń – which was the first to be granted its foundation charter in Pomerania. Since its foundation, Toruń had been a great and affluent merchant city, maintaining extensive trade contacts with European trade centres, including Lübeck and Flanders. These contacts encouraged a quick influx and development of new trends in Toruń, which soon developed into their local varieties.
Gothic architecture constitutes in Toruń the richest complex of mediaeval townsmen buildings in Poland.
 
The distinctive features of Northern Gothic include:
- massive walls and structures
- scarcity of ornaments,
- Glazed colour brick,
- ornamental gables,
- decorated star ceilings.
 
Toruń Poliptych, 1380-1390, fragmentIn the 14th century, Toruń reached its peak of architectural development based on the local craftsmanship, which distinguished it from other Pomeranian cities. It developed into a great and active artistic centre, famous all over the Teutonic State. Creating such a centre was motivated by the need to equip great city temples, public buildings and townsmen's houses in art, sculpture and handicraft masterpieces.

The most outstanding Gothic structures in Toruń were built in the Teutonic period. Later the role of the main artistic centre was taken over by Gdańsk, where the late Gothic architecture began to develop. At the time, i.e. in the 15th century, no new spectacular construction started in Toruń, except for extending the building of St Johns’ Cathedral (side chapels, the tower and the main hall were elevated to the height of nearly 27 m).
 
Toruń mediaeval defensive walls (>>), including gates and towers, date back to the 13th century. They are the oldest structures of their kind in Pomerania. Some of the city gates were wide and massive, which betrays their Flanders origins. This is well illustrated by the Convent Gate and the Paulite Gate; the latter, however, has not survived.
Together with barbicans added as strengthening in the 15th century the defensive walls were among the most powerful in Europe.
 
The imposing on a European scale Toruń Gothic Old City Town Hall (>>), dating back to the late 14th century, surpasses other city halls in Poland in terms of its perfect multifunctional urban solution. Its regular four-wing layout with a rectangular courtayrd  and a high tower of 'beffroi' type is reminiscent of Flanders city halls.
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Toruń can boast the highest number of townsmen residences of 13th, 14th and 15th centuries (>>), which were a distinctive feature of Hanseatic cities. They were two- or three-bay buildings with high halls, recessed facades and storerooms in their upper parts. The facades with high gables were richly decorated with recesses, portals, window frames ornamented with rich mouldings and sometimes with glazed bricks. The elevations were painted with many colours. It was all this which gave to the streets of Toruń their specific charm and colourfulness.
 
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Among brick Gothic buildings, Toruń churches (>>) are especially well-preserved. Ecclesiastical architecture developed particularly well in the Chełmno Land (numerous 13th and 14th century rural churches), including its two major cities: Toruń and Chełmno. Here, a large number of structures were built in a short period of time on the initiative of the Teutonic Knights. Toruń churches, with their characteristic rectangular presbytery, were significantly improved during subsequent extension works, which has placed them on the leading positions in all types of classifications. Today they represent the so called high hall churches (roughly 27 metres high), especially St. Mary’s Church, the first high hall church based on Lübeck spatial-structural concept, as well as St. Johns’ Cathedral. St. James’s Church, on the other hand, represents a different type of building – it is a basilica with protrusions, flying buttresses and coloured glazed brick, a system that was uncommon in the area. These elements have created the unique look for the church.
 
Coronation of St. Mary - Gothic wall painting in St. James's Church, 1360Art and sculpture masterpieces remain closely related to architecture - the interior decoration and furnishings, in particular ecclesiastical ones. The remaining elements form only a part of the original décor. It should also be remembered that Toruń was a major Pomeranian centre not only for Gothic architecture but also art.
The oldest paintings in the area (mid-14th century) are housed in Toruń St. Johns’ Cahedral and St. James’s Church. The most outstanding group includes the monumental paintings in St. Mary’s Church, dating back to the second half of the 14th century. They were made in the period dominated by the international style – in central Europe known as beautiful – and strong relationships with Czech, Flanders and North German art.

 
Compared to other Polish cities, Toruń can boast a relatively high number of Gothic murals (>>), which have survived in Old City residences. The oldest date from the mid-14th century.
The sections of stained glass (>>) in Toruń and Chełmno churches, made by Toruń artists, bear some relation to Czech art. They are housed in Toruń District Museum today.

 
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Netherlandic Renaissance and Mannerism
Renaissance corner turret of the Old City Town HallIf Toruń was the biggest centre for Gothic art, then Gdańsk was the heart of Netherlandic Mannerism. Beside Gdańsk, the most perfect Mannerist forms can be found in Elbląg and Toruń.

Toruń and Pomerania developed their architecture and art in the period through Gdańsk – a city which enjoyed a great economic boom following the Second Treaty of Toruń (1466) and surpassed Toruń and Elbląg – the other great cities of Prussia. Gdańsk owed the influx of the new trends to the trade contacts with the whole of Europe, especially with Flanders, which fostered the development of the Netherlandic, rather than the Italian Renaissance in this area.

The Renaissance architecture in Toruń, largely dependent on the significant improvement in the city’s economic conditions following its collapse triggered by the Second Peace of Toruń, started to develop at the turn of the 17th century, i.e. when the city’s burgomaster became meritorious Heinrich Stroband.

The most noteworthy early 17th century investment in Toruń was the reconstruction of the Old City Town Hall by an outstanding architect, Anton van Opberghen. He retained the Gothic structure of the building, complementing it with Renaissance and Mannerist elements, such as gables on the axes of each façade, corner turrets and ornaments, both outside and inside.

The Netherlandic Renaissance and Mannerism is equally evident on the facades of Toruń patrician residences and takes the form of wrought iron decorations, peculiar combinations of stone and brick elements and portals. Unfortunately, very few of them have survived as numerous buildings were subject to remodeling in the 19th century –
the Renaissance facades were turned into the Classicist ones.

Painted ceilings were a distinctive feature of residential architecture. Toruń can boast the greatest number of such decorations in the whole of Pomerania, which are well exemplified by the Star Residence.

A large investment in Toruń was building modern rampart fortifications in the 17th century, similar to those prescribed by the Old Dutch School of Fortification.

Other important buildings of the period include the Arsenal, Guardhouse and the so-called Economy.
 
Baroque and Rococo
Baroque architecture appeared in Toruń only in the 1680s and throughout the whole period it never vaulted into prominence.
A peculiar group of Baroque elements include the late 17th-century facades, richly adorned with stucco elements, such as flowery and leafy garlands and festoons. The Italian Baroque influences presumably arrived here from Silesia. It was in Toruń, however, that the style reached its peak of development and was representative of the city. It was often referred to as ‘Toruń Baroque’.
It is especially evident on the facades of the Dąbskis Palace or the Star Residence, the most imposing and best preserved Baroque patrician residences in central and northern Europe today.
Baroque architecture was further characterized by stone portals, segmented facades and gables, wide windows with decorated frames, as well as marble floors, panels and polychrome structural ceilings inside.
 
Meissnser Palace, 1739, reconstructed and siplified in 1800Late Baroque and Rococo architecture arrived in Toruń following the difficult period of the Great Northern War, which wrought havoc in the city.
In the 1730s, affluent Toruń patricians started erecting elegant, two or three-level urban palaces and suburban villas, all in the late Baroque and Rococo styles, surrounded by lavish gardens. However, none of them has retained its initial form (the Meissner Palace and the Fenger Palace). Two architects were active in Toruń at the time, namely, Saxon Jan Adam Bähr and Italian Giovanni Battista Cocchi, who was also Toruń councillor.
 
The already existing 17th-century ecclesiastical buildings were Gothic – in the centuries to follow no new building was erected in any other architectural style (Renaissance or Mannerism). It was only in the mid-18th century that a new temple was constructed – the late Baroque Evangelical Church of the Holy Cross (now the Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit), which was designed by Ephraim Schröger from Toruń.
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Classicism and Neostyles
Former Evangelical Church of the Holy TrinityNo outstanding work of art is left of the period of Classicism. The Classicism is most commonly evident on the reconstructed Toruń tenement facades.
There are several buildings in Toruń designed or co-designed by one the most outstanding German architects of the period – Larl Friedrich Schinkl. He was involved in building the Evangelical Church of the Holy Trinity in the style reminiscent of the Romanesque, as well as the military hospital. At the time, also the Classicist arsenals and Racławice Barracks were built.
 
Neo-Gothic building of the University's Collegium MaiusRomanticism, which was characteristic of the period, was associated with the common interest in mediaeval times. The Gothic revival was paralleled by resuscitating the Teutonic tradition and reusing some motifs characteristic of the period in architecture. Thus, from the second half of the 19th century to the early 20th century, the dominant style was the Neo-Gothic, which was evident in the newly erected buildings and the already existing ones, which were subject to alterations. The Neo-Gothic was at its best in public buildings such as offices, courts, schools and post offices, which were erected in large numbers on the sites previously occupied by the medieval city fortifications and some churches.
 
Former Reich BankOther styles include Art Nouveau, mostly noticeable on the facades of the converted tenements and the building of Wilam Horzyca Theatre; the Eclectic style evident in St. Catherine District or Bydgoskie Przedmieście District; the Neo-Renaissance, well-illustrated by Artus House; and the Netherlandic Neo-Mannerism, visible on the building of the former Reich Bank (nowadays Collegium Maximum of Toruń University).
Copyright by
Arkadiusz Skonieczny
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