Medieval Town



Medieval Town in the news

Old town Mombasa 

The Star Online - 40 minutes ago
Mombasa in Kenya is a melting pot of cultural and historical intrigue.
Five Live: Performance 
The Oregonian - Jan 12 12:32 AM
1. Cappella Romana Robust medieval Byzantine chant from the rich-voiced choir. 8 p.m. Friday, St. Mary's Cathedral, 1716 N.W. Davis; $25, with student/senior discounts; 503-236-8202.

Shopping for a Villa, He Wound Up With a Village 
New York Times - Jan 10 9:56 PM
A house-hunting American ends up with an entire medieval village.

Seville city guide - Jan 12 10:07 AM
Check out The Scene's recommendations for Seville. Is your favorite spot not here? Send us your suggestions.

- Medeival Town

Here is an article on Medieval Town.

(Flag) (Coat of arms)
Motto: Durabo
(lat. I will last)
Country Poland
Voivodeship Kuyavian-Pomeranian
Powiat Mediveal Town (County) Rada Miasta Torunia
Area 115.75 km²
 - city
 - urban
 - Medieal Town density

208,278 (2005) Ranked 17th
Bydgoszcz-Toruń Meideval Town 577,500citation needed] (2004)
Founded 13th century
City rights 1233
53°02' N
18°37' E
Area code +48 /56
Car plates CT 00000 - CT 99999
Twin towns Philadelphia, Göttingen, Leiden, Hämeenlinna, Kaliningrad, Čadca, Swindon, Novo mesto
Mayor Michał Zaleski
Municipal Website

Toruń (['tɔruɲ] ; German: ; Kashubian: Torń, see also other names) is a city in northern Poland, on the Vistula river. It had 196,844 inhabitants in 2006. The mediaeval town, the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Previously the capital of the Toruń Voivodeship (1975-98) and the Pomeranian Voivodeship (1921-39), since 1999 Toruń has been one of the capitals of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, as the city created the bipolar agglomeration of Bydgoszcz-Toruń with Bydgoszcz, located 45 km away. In September 2004, the Medical Academy in Bydgoszcz joined the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń as the Collegium Medicum.


  • 1 History
  • 2 Etymology
    • 2.1 German
    • 2.2 Polish
    • 2.3 Other
  • 3 Landmarks and monuments
  • 4 Population
  • 5 Transportation
  • 6 Economy
  • 7 Culture and science
  • 8 Education
  • 9 Healthcare
  • 10 Media
  • 11 Professional sport clubs
  • 12 Famous people from Toruń
  • 13 Sister cities
  • 14 Trivia
  • 15 Members of Parliament from Toruń (2000-2005)
  • 16 Members of Parliament from Toruń (2005-?)
  • 17 External links


The first settlement in the vicinity is dated by archeologists to 1100 BC. During medieval times there was a small settlement here guarding the crossing of the river (7th-13th centuries), but it was probably already abandoned by 1230.

When the Teutonic Knights arrived in Kulmer Land/Chełmno Land, they built a castle (1230-31) here. The settlement, named Thorn (after a castle owned earlier by the order in the Holy Land), acquired city rights in 1233 and was relocated in 1236 from its original site to the Altstadt ("Old Town"), now called Stare Miasto. The town soon became a mostly German-speaking medieval trade center. In 1263 Franciscan monks settled in Thorn/Toruń, and they were followed in 1239 by Dominicans. In 1264 the neighboring Thorner Neustadt (New Town) or Nowe Miasto was founded. It was a separate town until 1454, when the old and new cities were amalgamated.

City Hall (Ratusz/Rathaus)

During the 14th century, the city joined the mercantile Hanseatic League. The First Peace of Toruń ending the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War (1409-1411) was signed in the city in 1411. When the Prussian nobility formed the Prussian Confederation in 1440, the city rose with the Confederation against the Teutonic Knights in 1454, and in return for support and recognition of its city privileges, Toruń accepted the sovereignty of the Polish crown. The resulting Thirteen Years' War ended in 1466 with the Second Peace of Toruń, in which the Teutonic Order ceded sovereignty over western Prussia (Royal Prussia) to the Kingdom of Poland.

The mostly German-populated city adopted Protestantism in 1557 during the Protestant Reformation, while the majority of Poland remained Roman Catholic. During the time of the mayor ("Bürgermeister") Heinrich Stroband (1586-1609), Toruń became centralised and power went into the hands of its city council. In 1595, Jesuits arrived in order to promote the Counter-Reformation, taking control of the Church of St. John. Protestant city officials tried to limit the influx of the Catholic population into the city, as Catholics (Jesuits and Dominican Order monks) already controlled most churches, leaving only St. Mary to the Protestant citizens.

In 1677, the Prussian historian and educator Christoph Hartknoch was invited to be director of the Torunian Gymnasium, a post which he held until his death in 1687. Hartknoch wrote books on the history of Prussia, which included the Royal Prussian cities.

Dąbski Palace in Toruń

In the second half of the 17th century, tensions between Catholics and Protestants grew. Just as the religious tensions in the rest of Europe settled down after the bloody Thirty Years' War and Peace of Westphalia, in the once very tolerant Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the situation was worsening. From 1682, St. Mary's Church had to be guarded by a Lutheran Bürgerwehr (militia) during the Feast of Corpus Christi processions, as the assembled Catholics might have occupied this church as well. On 16 July 1724, when the Jesuits held another procession, a fight with pupils of the Lutheran Gymnasium led to the devastation of the Jesuit collegium. After this event, both Jesuits and Dominicans tried to persuade the mayor, Johann Gottfried Rößner, and ten other leading citizens, all of them Prussian German Protestants, to convert to the Church of Rome. They declined and did not leave the city despite the pressure. The Jesuits then appealed to the Royal supreme court in Warsaw. The court, held during the monarchy of August II the Strong of Saxony, sentenced Rößner and nine other Lutherans to death [1], sparing only Rößner's predecessor Zerneke. The remaining Protestant church, St. Mary's, was also made Catholic again and given to Franciscan monks who celebrated a Mass there on the day of the execution, 7 December 1724, which is remembered for these Protestant martyrs [2]. Also, the majority of the town council was required to be Catholic from then on. In large parts of Europe, this Toruń Blood tribunal (de:Thorner Blutgericht), reminiscent of witch hunts, damaged Poland's reputation for tolerance. Over 165 publications and countless newspapers reported the event. Decades later, during the Partitions of Poland, Voltaire recalled the events as an example "of the religious intolerance of the Poles". [3]

In 1793 the city was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia following the Second Partition of Poland. In 1807, the city became part of the Duchy of Warsaw created by Napoleon and ruled by King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, although Prussia took it over again upon Napoleon's defeat in 1814. In 1870, French prisoners of war taken during the Franco-Prussian War built a chain of forts surrounding the town. In the following year, the city, along with the rest of Prussia, became part of the new German Empire.

In the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after World War I, Toruń became part of Poland, as the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, even though it was not situated in Pomerania. In 1925 the Baltic Institute was established in the city, with the task of documenting Polish heritage in Pomerania. In general, the interwar period was a time of significant urban development in Toruń. Major investments were completed in areas like transportation (new streets, tramway lines and the Piłsudski Bridge), residential constructions (many new houses, particularly in Bydgoskie Przedmieście) and public buildings.

Toruń was annexed by Nazi Germany after the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and administered as part of Danzig-West Prussia. During World War II, the chain of forts were used by the Germans as POW camps, collectively known as Stalag XX-A. Toruń was liberated from the Nazis in 1945 by the Soviet Red Army and returned to Polish administration by the Potsdam Conference. The city was quite fortunate to avoid significant destruction during the war. According to the decision of the victorious Allied powers, the remaining German population of Toruń was expelled to West Germany between 1945 and 1947.

After World War II, the population increased more than twofold and industry developed significantly. However, one of the most important events of the post-war era was the founding of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in 1945. Over the years, it has become one of the best universities in Poland. Its existence has influenced the life of the city enormously, as well as its perception by non-locals.

Since 1989, when local and regional self-government was gradually reintroduced and the market economy set in, Toruń, like other cities in Poland, has undergone deep social and econonomic transformation. There is some debate among locals as to whether this time has been really spent as successfully as it should have been, but the fact is that Toruń has recently reclaimed its strong position as a regional leader, together with Bydgoszcz.

City walls and the Leaning Tower.


Early documents record the city's name as Thorun (1226, 1466), Turon, Turun, Toron, Thoron and Thorn.

When Toruń became a royal city, subject to the kings of Poland, Latin documents and coins usually spelled it Thorun, Thorunium, civitas Thorunensis, or civitas Torunensis, and after the 15th century, the current Polish name Toruń.

There are several different etymological explanations for the names, and whether an original name was Germanized or Polonized.


  • It may come from the German word Tor (former spelling Thor), which means "gate" - as featured on the coat of arms.
  • It may be derived from the castle of Toron in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in which the Teutonic Knights served during the Crusades.
  • It may come from the Germanic god Thor.


  • It may come from the Polish word tor, which means "track (of the Vistula river)". Toruń would therefore mean "town on the track".
  • It may have been originally Tarnów, based on the Polish word tarnina, a kind of river plant. There are many cities in Poland with a similar derivation.
  • It may have come from the Polish word "Ruń", to lean, named because of the leaning tower along the wall surrounding the old city.


  • Some people, such as Jan Miodek, claim that "Toruń" does not have any etymological meaning.
  • It may come from the personal name Toron and mean "Toron's town".

Landmarks and monuments

View of the city from the left bank of the Vistula
Similar panoramic view by Hartknoch featured in his book Altes und Neues Preussen

Toruń has been listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1997. The town contains many monuments from the Middle Ages, and also from the 20th century (200 military objects). The city is famous for having preserved almost intact its medieval spatial layout and many Gothic buildings, all built from brick, including monumental churches, the Town Hall and many burgher houses. The most interesting monuments are:

  • Gothic churches:
    • The Cathedral of Ss. John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, an aisled hall church built in the 14th century and extended in the 15th century; outstanding Gothic sculptures and paintings inside (Moses, St. Mary Magdalene, gravestone of Johann von Soest), Renaissance and Baroque epitaphs and altars (amongst them the epitaph of Copernicus from 1580)
    • St. Mary's church, a formerly Franciscan aisled hall built in the 14th century
    • St. Jacob's church, a basilica from the 14th century, with monumental wall paintings and Gothic stalls
  • The Old Town Hall, begun in 1274, extended and rebuilt between 1391 and 1399, and extended at the end of the 16th century; one of the most monumental town halls in Central Europe
  • City fortifications, begun in the 13th century, extended between the 14th and 15th centuries, mostly demolished in the 19th century, but partially preserved with a few city gates and watchtowers (among them the so-called Leaning Tower) from the Vistula side
  • A Gothic house from the 15th century, where Copernicus was allegedly born (now a museum)
  • Ruins of the Teutonic Knights' castle from the 13th century
  • The House Under the Star (Polish: Dom Pod Gwiazdą), previously Gothic, briefly owned by Filip Callimachus, then rebuilt in the 16th century and in 1697, with a richly decorated stucco facade and wooden spiral stairs
  • Toruń has the largest number of preserved Gothic houses in Poland, many with Gothic wall paintings or wooden beam ceilings from the 16th to the 18th centuries

An important fact is that Toruń, unlike many other historic cities in Poland, avoided significant destruction during World War II. In particular, the Old Town was left intact, so all its important monuments of architecture are original ones - not rebuilt after destruction.

Major renovation projects have been undertaken in recent years to improve the condition and external presentation of the Old Town. Besides the renovation of various buildings, projects such as the reconstruction of the pavements of the streets and squares (reversing them to their historical appearance), and the introduction of new plants, trees and objects of 'small architecture', are underway.

The most spectacular, though, is the illumination of the Old Town at night. Numerous buildings and other constructions, including the city walls along the boulevard, are illuminated at night, creating an impressive effect - probably unique among Polish cities with respect to the size of Toruń's Old Town and the scale of the illumination projects itself.


View of Torun Old Town Square at dusk

Most recent statistics show a decrease in the population of the city, to ca. 197,000 at the end of 2006. This is mainly because quite a large number of citizens have been moving to nearby communities, adjacent to the formal administrative area of Toruń, but still outside it. As a result Toruń is surrounded by a belt of densely-populated settlements, whose inhabitants work and shop in the city proper, but do not officially live there.

In recent years, a discussion has been taking place as to whether or not these surrounding communities should be incorporated into the city's administrative area. This seems rather inevitable in the longer term, though many say Toruń has almost reached its the limit of its development inside the city's boundary.

Inside the city itself, most of the population is concentrated on the right (northern) bank of the Vistula river. Two of the most densely populated areas are Rubinkowo and Na Skarpie, housing projects built mostly in 1970 and 1980, recently located between the downtown and easternmost districts; their total population is about 70,000.

Toruń and Bydgoszcz together make up a bipolar metroplex which, including those cities' counties and a number of smaller towns, may have a population of as much as 800,000. Thus the area contains about one third of the population of the Kuyavia-Pomerania region (which has about 2.1 million inhabitants).


The transportation network in the city itself has been a subject of much criticism for years. Although the city is not very large, the underdeveloped street and road network is a source of problems. Even the construction of new wide avenues, both by reconstructing existing streets and by construction of others from scratch, has not been enough to combat the opinion of Toruń as rather a "driver-unfriendly" place. The most serious problem, however, is that only a single car traffic bridge crosses the Vistula river inside the city's boundaries. The construction of beltways, and thus the reduction of the inflow of vehicles into the city, has helped somewhat, but still the existence of only one downtown bridge causes serious transportation difficulties, especially traffic jams. Another bridge has been proposed in an atmosphere of heated discussions, but it is unclear when and where this will be built.

The mass transit system is composed of 30 bus lines and a few tram lines, covering the city and some of the neighboring communities.

Toruń is a major road junction, one of the most important in Poland. The A1 highway reaches Toruń, and a southern beltway surrounds the city. Besides these, the European route E75 and a number of domestic roads (numbered 10, 15, and 80) run through the city.

Three main railway stations and four railway routes connect Toruń with Bydgoszcz and the smaller towns of the surrounding region, as well as with the distant major cities. Two bus depots serve the connections of the city with other towns and cities in Poland.

As of 2005, only a small tourist airport exists in Toruń; however, a passenger airport is under construction. The nearest larger airports are located in Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk and Warsaw.


Although a medium-sized city, Toruń is a seat of the headquarters of some companies considered as belonging to largest and most influential in Poland, or at least of their subsidiaries. The official unemployment, as of July 2006, is quite moderate as regards Polish reality - 10.5%, what is fairly below the country's average (15.7%). Actually, in day-to-day living, unemployment doesn't seem to be a very serious problem in Toruń.

In 2006 a construction of new plants owned by Sharp corporation and other companies of mainly Japanese origin has started in neighboring community of Łysomice (about 10 km from city center). Next investments in the area are expected soon. The facilities under construction are located in a newly-created special economical area. As a result of cooperation of the beforementioned companies, a vast high-tech complex is to be constructed in next few years' time, providing even as much as 10,000 jobs (prediction for 2010) at the cost of about 450 million euros. There are no doubts it will seriously influence both city's and even whole region's economy, first signs of which could have been already observed (particularly on Toruń real estate market).

Thanks to numerous monuments of architecture Toruń is visited by about 1.5 million tourists a year. This number may vary depending on source and means of calculation, nevertheless tourism is a quite important branch of local economy. Although such things like time spent in the city by individual tourists or number of hotels which can serve them are still considered as not satisfying. Anyway, a significant increase in numbers of visitors has been observed in 2006.

About 20,000 to 25,000 local firms are registered in Toruń.

Culture and science

The planetarium of Toruń

Toruń has two drama theatres (Teatr im. Wilama Horzycy with three stages and Teatr Wiczy), two children's theatres (Baj Pomorski and Zaczarowany Świat), two music theatres (Mała Rewia, Studencki Teatr Tańca), and numurous other theatre groups. The city hosts, among others, the international theatre festival, "Kontakt", annually in May

The building called Baj Pomorski has recently been under complete reconstruction. When finished, it will be one of the most modern cultural facilities of the city. It is located at south-eastern edge of the Old Town.

Movies in Toruń can be enjoyed in the city's Cinema City, which has over 2000 seats, and in another five or more public cinemas.

Over ten major museums document the history of Toruń and the region. Among others, the "House of Kopernik" and the accompanying museum commerorate Nicolaus Copernicus and his revolutionary work, the university museum reveals the history of the city's academic past.

A construction of Center of Contemporary Art (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej - CSW) is to be started in summer of 2006. It will probably be opened in 2007 and will be one of the most significant cultural facilities of this kind in Poland. Its modern building is to be locataed in strict city center, adherent to the Old Town.

The Toruń Symphony Orchestra (formerly the Toruń Chamber Orchestra) deserves mention, as it is well-rooted in the Toruń cultural landscape.

Toruń is equipped with a planetarium (located downtown) and astronomical observatory (located in nearby community of Piwnice). The latter boasts the largest radiotelescope in the Eastern part of Central Europe with 32 m in diameter, second only to the Effelsberg 100 m radio telescope.


Over 30 elementary and primary schools, and over ten high schools make up the educational base of Toruń, and besides these students can also attend a handful of private schools.

The largest institution of higher education in Toruń, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, serves over 40 thousand students and was founded in 1945, based on the Toruń Scientific Society, Stefan Batory University in Wilno, and Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov. Undoubtedly, the existence of a high-ranked and wide-profiled university with many students plays a great role both in keeping the city's position and importance in general, as well as in creating the image of Toruń's streets and clubs filled with crowds of young people. It also has a serious influence on local economy.

Other public institutions of higher education:

  • Wyższe Seminarium Duchowne (section of the Theological Faculty of the Nicolaus Copernicus University)
  • College fo English - Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języków Obcych (affiliated by the Nicolaus Copernicus University)
  • College of Fashion (Kolegium Mody)

There are also a number of private higher education facilities:

  • Wyższa Szkoła Bankowa
  • Wyższa Szkoła Kultury Społecznej i Medialnej (affiliate to the highly controversial Radio Maryja)
  • Toruńska Szkoła Wyższa


Five hospitals of various specialization provide medical service for Toruń itself, its surrounding area and, to some extent, to the region in general. Besides them, there is a number of other healthcare facilities in the city.


  • TV Stations: TVN/TVN24 - oddział Regionalny w Toruniu, TVP 3 - Studio w Toruniu, Telewizja Trwam, Telewizja Podróże TV, Telewizja Kablowa Toruń [4], Telewizja TAT Studio Region. [5], Telewizja Petrus
  • Radio Stations:Radio Toruń, Radio Maryja , Radio ESKA, Radio GRA, Radio Sfera, Polskie Radio Pomorza i Kujaw, Radio Brawo, Warszawska 4 [6]
  • Press: Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza Toruń, Gazeta Pomorska, Nowości, Niedziela, Undergrunt, Immuniet, Ilustrator

Professional sport clubs

  • Apator Toruń (former KS Apator Toruń) - speedway (premier league in Poland)
  • Toruński Klub Piłkarski (former ZKS Elana Toruń) - football
  • TKH Toruń - ice hockey (premier league in Poland)
  • Pomorzanin Toruń - hockey (premier league in Poland)
  • Nova Trading - basketball (woman premier league in Poland)
  • Nestle-Pacyfic - cycling

Famous people from Toruń

  • Nicolaus Copernicus, famous astronomer
  • Leszek Balcerowicz, politician, economist, chairman of the National Bank of Poland
  • Władysław Dziewulski, astronomer and mathematician
  • Tony Halik, traveller and explorer
  • Christoph Hartknoch, historian and educator
  • Aleksander Jabłoński, physicist
  • Sylwester Kaliski, general and engineer in the Polish Army
  • Maciej Konacki, astronomer
  • Bogusław Linda, popular actor
  • Zbigniew Lengren, cartoonist
  • Jerzy Łoś, mathematician working on ultraproducts
  • Kazimierz Serocki, composer
  • Samuel Thomas von Soemmering, physicist and inventor
  • Grażyna Szapołowska, actress
  • Christian Wernicke 1661-1725, poet
  • Julie Wolfthorn, painter
  • Aleksander Wolszczan, astronomer to discover the first exosolar planet

Sister cities

  • Philadelphia, United States, since 1976
  • Göttingen, Germany, since 1978
  • Leiden, Netherlands, since 1988
  • Hämeenlinna, Finland, since 1989
  • Kaliningrad, Russian Federation, since 1995
  • Čadca, Czech Republic, since 1996
  • Swindon, United Kingdom, since 2003
  • Novo Mesto, Slovenia, since 2005

Bulwar Filadelfijski ("Philadelphia Boulevard"), both a 1.5 km long street running mostly between Vistula River and walls of the Old Town, and the 2k m long boulevard itself (bearing the same name), honours sister relationship with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Ślimak Getyński (German: Goettingen Schnecke) is one of the lanes connecting Piłsudski Bridge / John Paul II Avenue with Philadelphia Boulevard at their downtown interchange. It honours the relationship with Göttingen, its name derived from the street's half-circular shape (Polish word ślimak meaning "snail").


Depending on the calculation method, the Geographic Center of Europe may be located here.

Although being near neighbors, Toruń and Bydgoszcz are quite widely known for having been in deep conflicts for not even decades, but centuries. Whatever complex source, background and real significance of the situation, it's undoubtedly harmful to both cities. Anyway, while they compose one of the relatively important Polish agglomerations, they're probably the best known pair of conflicted cities in the country.

Members of Parliament from Toruń (2000-2005)

Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from Toruń constituency

  • Ryszard Chodynicki, SLD-UP
  • Bogdan Derwich, SLD-UP
  • Lech Kuropatwiński, Samoobrona
  • Bogdan Lewandowski, SLD-UP
  • Krystian Łuczak, SLD-UP
  • Antoni Mężydło, PiS
  • Marek Olewiński, SLD-UP
  • Sławomir Rybicki, PO
  • Anna Sobecka, LPR
  • Zbigniew Sosnowski, PSL
  • Leszek Sułek, Samoobrona
  • Elżbieta Szparaga, SLD-UP
  • Jerzy Wenderlich, SLD-UP

Members of Parliament from Toruń (2005-?)

  • Jan Wyrowiński, PO
  • Tomasz Lenz, PO
  • Zbigniew Girzyński, PiS
  • Anna Sobecka, LPR
  • Jerzy Wenderlich, SLD-UP

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • Municipal website
  • Torun travel guide from Wikitravel
  • tourism
  • Toruń Trips tourism
  • "Virtual" Toruń (Polish)
Voivodeships of Poland
Greater Poland | Kuyavia-Pomerania | Lesser Poland | Lower Silesia | Lublin | Lubusz | Łódź | Masovia | Opole | Podlachia | Pomerania | Silesia | Subcarpathia | Świętokrzyskie | Warmia and Masuria | West Pomerania
Principal cities: Warsaw | Łódź | Kraków | Wrocław | Poznań | Gdańsk | Szczecin | Bydgoszcz | Lublin | Katowice | Białystok | Częstochowa | Gdynia | Toruń | Olsztyn | Radom | Kielce | Rzeszów | Opole | Gorzów Wielkopolski

Coordinates: 53°01′N 18°37′E

Search Term: "Toru%C5%84"