What to See in Medieval Town of Toruń, Poland (with Photos)

Toruń is a city located in northern Poland, on the banks of the Vistula River. It is, together with Bydgoszcz, the capital of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. Has a population of 208,000 residents. Toruń is the birth town of Nicolás Copernicus, included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage cities since 1997, it is famous for having more than 300 monuments inscribed in the art history of Europe. The composition of the main square and the adjacent streets remains the same as 700 years ago.

Medieval Town of Toruń Poland
Medieval Town of Toruń Poland


The first settlement in the surroundings is dated by archaeologists to 1100 BC. During the Middle Ages there was a small settlement that guarded the passage of the river (7th to 13th centuries), named Toruń or Toroń.

When the Teutonic Knights arrived in the Chełmno Region, they built a castle (1230-31) at this location. The settlement called Thorn (Germanized Polish name) acquired city rights in 1233 and was moved to the Altstadt or Stare Miasto in Polish (old city). The city soon became a German-speaking commercial enclave. Franciscan monks were established in 1263 and later Dominican monks, in 1239. In 1264, the neighboring Thoner Neustadt or Nowe Miasto in Polish (new city) was founded. It was a different city until 1454 when both were united to form a single city.

During the 14th century, the city joined the Hanseatic League. The First Peace of Torun that ended the war between the Teutonic Knights and the Polish-Lithuanians (1409-1411) was signed in the city in [1411]. After the nobility of the Prussian cities formed the Prussian Confederation in 1440, the city took up arms against the Teutonic Knights (in 1454) and accepted the sovereignty of the Polish Crown in support and recognition of their privileges. The resulting war, the 13 Years War ended in 1466 with the Second Peace of Torun in which the Teutonics ceded the sovereignty of East Prussia or Royal Prussia to the Kingdom of Poland.

Medieval Town of Toruń Poland
Medieval Town of Toruń Poland

The city, populated mainly by inhabitants of German origin, adopted Protestantism in 1557 during the reform, while the Polish population remained Catholic. In those years the mayor Heinrich Stroband (1586-1609), centralized the power of the city in the City Hall. In 1595, Jesuits arrived in the city to promote the Counter-Reformation by taking control of the Church of San Juan. The Protestant leaders tried to limit the influx of the Catholic population to the city, while the Jesuits and Dominicans controlled most of the churches, leaving only the Church of Santa María to the Protestant cult.

In 1677, the Prussian historian and educator Christoph Hartknoch was invited to head the Toruń School, a position he held until his death in 1687. Hartknoch wrote the history of Prussia, including the history of the cities of Royal Prussia.

In the second half of the 17th century, the religious tension between Catholics and Protestants grew unlike in the rest of Europe where it decreased after the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia. In the Republic of the Two Nations (Poland and Lithuania), previously very tolerant, the situation worsened and, from 1682, the Church of Santa Maria had to be protected by Lutheran militias to prevent it from being occupied by during the processions of the Feast of Corpus Christi

On July 16, 1724, while a procession of the Jesuits was passing, a fight with students of the Lutheran school led to the destruction of the Jesuit College. After this fact, both the Jesuits and the Dominicans tried to persuade the mayor Johann Gottfried Rößner, and ten other prominent citizens, all of them Protestant and German Prussians, to convert to the Church of Rome, an offer that they rejected and did not leave the city. despite the pressures. The Jesuits then took the case to the Supreme Court in Warsaw. The trial, which occurred during the reign of Augustus II of Poland, sentenced Rößner and nine other Lutherans to death.

The only Protestant church in the city. the Church of Santa Maria was converted into Catholic and given assigned to the Franciscan monks who celebrated Mass in it on the day of the execution, December 7, 1724. Those executed are remembered as Protestant martyrs. From that moment on, the majority of the councilors were required to be Catholic. In parts of Europe this is known as the Torun Blood Court and seriously damaged the Polish reputation for tolerance.

Decades later, during the Partitions of Poland, Voltaire recalled these events as an example of the religious intolerance of the Poles. In parts of Europe this is known as the Torun Blood Court and seriously damaged the Polish reputation for tolerance. Decades later, during the Partitions of Poland, Voltaire recalled these events as an example of the religious intolerance of the Poles. In parts of Europe this is known as the Torun Blood Court and seriously damaged the Polish reputation for tolerance. Decades later, during the Partitions of Poland, Voltaire recalled these events as an example of the religious intolerance of the Poles.

Medieval Town of Toruń Poland
Medieval Town of Toruń Poland

In 1793 the Kingdom of Prussia annexed the city after the Second Partition of Poland. In 1807, the city became part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw created by Napoleon and ruled by Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, although Prussia later retaken it after Napoleon's defeat in 1814. In 1870, the French prisoners captured during the Franco-War Prussians built a chain of fortresses around the city, and the following year the city, along with the rest of Prussia, became part of the German Empire.

In the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 after the First World War, Toruń was integrated into the Second Polish Republic, as the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, although it was not located in Pomerania. In 1925 the Baltic Institute was established in the city with the task of documenting the Polish heritage in Pomerania.

In general, the interwar period there was significant urban development and large investments were made in transport (streets, trams and the Piłsudski bridge), in residential constructions (new houses, especially in Bydgoskie Przedmieście) and public buildings.

Toruń was annexed by Nazi Germany after the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and administered as the Danzig-East Prussia region. During World War II the chain of fortresses of Toruń was used as a camp for prisoners of war, known as Stalag XX-A. Toruń was liberated from the Nazis in 1945 by the Red Army of the Soviet Union and returned to Polish administration at the Potsdam Conference. The city was fortunate for the little destruction that occurred during the war. According to the decisions made by the Allied Powers, the German population was expelled to the FRG between 1945 and 1947.

After the Second World War, the population doubled and the industry developed significantly, but one of the most important events of that time is the founding of the Nicholas Copernicus University of Toruń in 1945, which has greatly affected the life of the city ​​and has become one of the best universities in Poland.

Since 1989, when local and regional government was introduced and with the establishment of the market economy, Toruń, like other cities in Poland, has undergone profound social and economic transformation. There is a debate among the local population as to whether this time has been used properly, but the fact is that Toruń has a strong position as a local leader together with the nearby city of Bydgoszcz.

Medieval Town of Toruń Poland
Medieval Town of Toruń Poland


Toruń has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1997. The city has many monuments from the Middle Ages, and from the 20th century (200 military elements). The city is known for having preserved its medieval appearance almost intact and many [Gothic] buildings, all of them built with brick, including monumental churches, the town hall and many bourgeois houses. The most important monuments are:

Gothic churches

The Cathedral Basilica of San Juan Bautista and San Juan Evangelista, a church built in the 14th century and extended in the 15th century, outstanding sculptures and paintings (Moses, Santa María Magdalena, tombstone of Johann von Soest), Renaissance and Baroque epitaphs and altars (including the epitaph to Copernicus from 1580)
Iglesia de Santa María, built in the 14th century was a Franciscan church
Iglesia de San Jacobo, 14th century basilica with monumental wall paintings from the 14th century

Old Town Hall, begun in 1274, extensively rebuilt between 1391 and 1399 and expanded at the end of the 16th century; one of the most monumental town halls in Central Europe

Fortifications of the city, begun in the 13th century and extended between the 14th and 15th centuries, were demolished in the 19th century preserving the city gates and watchtowers on the side of the Vistula

Gothic house of the XV century, where it is argued that Copernicus was born (today a museum)

Ruins of the castle of the Teutonic Knights of the XIII century

The house under the star (in Polish Dom Pod Gwiazdą), formerly Gothic, briefly owned by Filip Callimachus, later rebuilt in the 16th century and in 1697, with a rich facade decorated with stucco and a wooden spiral staircase.

Toruń boasts the largest number of Gothic houses in Poland with many Dotic wall paintings and wood-beamed ceilings from the 16th to 18th centuries.

It should be noted that Toruń, unlike many other Polish historical cities, was left almost intact after the Second World War. In particular the ancient city was left intact and all its important monuments are original - not rebuilt after being destroyed.

In recent years, renovation projects have been carried out in the old city. The restoration of buildings has been carried out, paving streets and squares (to return them to their traditional appearance), incorporation of plants and trees and other elements of small architecture are still being carried out, the most striking of which is the night lighting of the Old Town hall. Many other monuments, buildings and city walls are illuminated at night, creating an impressive effect - probably unique in today's Polish cities considering the size of Toruń's old town and the scope of the project.

Medieval Town of Toruń Map