Artus Courts were established in places connected with the Teutonic Order. They brought together merchants and patriciate who felt the need for ennoblement, following chivalric traditions and being distinguished form the burgher class – the rich and middle-class merchants and craftspeople. Artus Courts were usually used by several Brotherhoods of the Bench, (in the 15th century there were three such brotherhoods in Toruń) which were united around the shared ideology pertaining to King Arthur (Artus). The most elitist Artus Court user was the Brotherhood of St. George, which owned the bench of St. George by the eastern wall and left of the entrance. The first Artus Court in Toruń was erected in 1386. Following its reconstruction in the Renaissance and Baroque in 1626 and 1701 respectively, the building looked truly magnificent and rich on its Gothic foundation, its façade beautifully ornamented with allegories and symbols. Unfortunately, it was dismantled and replaced by the present-day Artus Court in 1891.
Artus Court was the leading social centre of old Toruń. It was in Artus Court that King Casimir Jagiellon and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Ludwig Erlichshausen, signed the Second Peace of Toruń in 1466, concluding the Thirteen Years’ War and putting an end to the Teutonic state in its former shape.
Unfortunately, the lavish furnishings of the former Artus Court, known only by description, did not survive. Today, there are handsomely embellished halls, which perform a representative function and provide a place for important formal meetings.
Centre of Contemporary Art
The building, designed by Edward Lach, architect from Wroclaw, is the first venue dedicated to contemporary art in Poland since 1939. The structure was erected by Toruń Municipality thanks to subsidies granted by the European Union (as part of the Integrated Operational Program of Regional Development) and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Architectural barrier-free, the building is accessible to people with disabilities. The architectural design was made by Leszek Rubik’s R2 Studio.
Church of St. James
Located in a corner of the New City Market Square and towering over the New City, St. James’s Church is the New City’s gem. Erected in the first half of the fourteenth century, it is considered as one of the most valuable and interesting architectural achievements. It is a basilica-plan church (with the aisles lower than the nave), differing from other Toruń’s Gothic churches also in that it uses a structure rarely employed in Poland: a free-standing aisle buttress attached to the nave by a flying buttress which transmits the thrust of the vault to the buttress. Now that the vaults of the aisles were raised in the fifteenth century, only one flying buttress can be seen: that over the roof of sacristy. The unique character of the church is also determined by a myriad of decorations, detail styles and multicolour glazed brick. In the New Market Square, the church can be entered through the Gothic gate with a pillar and the Baroque figure of St. James, the patron.
The Planetarium is part of former gasometers built in the gardens of the earlier Franciscan monastery. The Franciscans first came to Torun in 1239, and probably began to build their monastery almost immediately. In 1243 a synod was held there with the papal representative William of Modena. Between 1350-1370 the present brick building of St. Mary’s Church was built to replace the previous timber one. The monastery on the north side of the church had a square plan with an inner courtyard. To this day the remains of the monastery, including the cloisters of the southern nave of the church and the northern part of the western wing, are still to be seen. During the Reformation in 1557 the monastery and the church were taken over by the city council and the church became a Protestant Church, and an evangelical school and later a high school operated from the monastery buildings. In 1724 the monastery and the church returned to the Catholics, and Friar Minor of Bernardine took over the school buildings. In 1821, the authorities of the Partition of Poland decided to close down the monastery, demolish its buildings and the diocese took over the church the next year.
The gasometers were then built on the site of the former gardens of the Franciscan Order. They consisted of three chambers – two octagonal ones, which were later demolished in 1926, and a larger round chamber which is the home of the Planetarium today. It was designed in 1889 and remained in use until the end of World War II. In the 1970s, the roof cover and inner metal storage tank were dismantled. In 1991, work began on the design and alteration of the building for the needs of the Planetarium which opened in 1994.
The building is now listed. It consists of the circular tank (the Planetarium itself) and the maintenance staff accommodation, together with the railings and parts of the lower portions of the two demolished tanks which are visible in the yard. The building is a characteristic element of architectural assembly which has remained unchanged for more than 100 years and it has its unique atmosphere.
Holy Spirit Church
It is a university church affiliated with Nicolaus Copernicus University, the oldest and biggest university in the north of Poland, founded in 1945. The church was built in late Baroque style in the mid-eighteenth century by the Protestants, who were dispossessed of St. Mary’s Church as a result of the Tumult of Toruń in 1724. The slender church tower was added later, i.e. at the end of the nineteenth century. The interior of the church underwent changes in 1945 (some elements were removed), when it was taken over by the Jesuits. In 1989, the valuable organ was burnt (in 2005-6 the organ under reconstruction). Today, we can admire, for example, the mid-eighteenth century Rococo high altar and the beautiful door with intarsia on the axes of the aisles near the presbytery, depicting Christ’s death and resurrection. The door is an example of Toruń’s high standard artistic woodwork.
St. Mary’s Church
The post-Franciscan Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Polish: Kościół Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Marii Panny or in short: Kościół Mariacki), erected in the second half of the 14th century, is one of the most outstanding artistic and architectural achievements of sacral architecture in Poland. In the 14th century it was the highest hall church in Central Europe with the naves and aisles 26.8 metre (88 feet) high. The church provided inspiration for the extension of St. Johns’ Church in Toruń and St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk in the 15th century. According to the Franciscan rule, the church does not have a tower but three rather small ave-bell towers instead. The church and the cloister remained in Franciscan hands up to the Reformation period, i.e. up to 1559.
The cloister, which was the oldest and most significant in the whole of the Teutonic state, was the residence of the Prussian custos. Here during the synod of 1243 a papal bull was announced dividing the Teutonic state into four dioceses.