28.07.2017 change 28.07.2017

Toruń/ Archaeologists discover the secrets of medieval hospital

Photo: PAP/ Tytus Żmijewski 07.07.2017 Photo: PAP/ Tytus Żmijewski 07.07.2017

Archaeologists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University discover the secrets of a medieval hospital that has been preserved in the New Town Square. This is the second study conducted in the building at Szpitalna 4. Researchers have managed to find valuable items used in patient care many centuries ago.

Archaeological work is led by a group led by Prof. Grażyna Sulkowska-Tuszyńska from the Nicolaus Copernicus University. During the first excavations in 2014, researchers studied the eastern, brick part of the building foundations, excavated the Prussian well from the 19th century, identified utility levels, and found a relic of brick structure in the courtyard.

"I\'m the leader of the expedition we called +Jacob+ years ago, because we started +digging+ St. Jacob\'s Church in the historic New Town. After the initial query of historical sources we knew that next to that church there should be a school, a hospital and a parish house. In 2014 we started to survey the hospital, which is just behind the cemetery wall of this church. It is a simple, currently poorly looking building with a gable roof. Above the main entrance there is a niche that used to house a crucifix. Religious sign of the presence of Christ was found in every medieval hospital" - Sulkowska-Tuszyńska said in an interview with PAP.

Toruń had several hospitals in the Middle Ages. According to historians\' accounts, there were two hospitals in the New Town - the St. Peter and Paul hospital and another one at Szpitalna Street.

"There is a scientific discussion of whether or not the hospital which we are currently studying was the St. Peter and Paul hospital, but we do not think that was the case. It was supposed to be a hospital at the St. Jacob\'s Church, and that one was elsewhere. This is also confirmed by the accounts of the people I contacted earlier. We are also happy that this building has been preserved in its entirety, although it has been rebuilt many times over the years, for example after the fires" - she said.

She added that the researchers still do not know the location of the school that was supposed to be located in the church complex.

"A few years ago there were flats here and numerous internal divisions, so only now we can study the interior and foundation technique. We were very happy to find a religious ring with the monogram of Christ, which could not belong to a civilian, only to a religious person. That confirms by the presence of nuns - Benedictines and Cistercians" - mentioned Sulkowska-Tuszyńska.

Her group also found scissors for cutting candle wicks, numerous ceramic vessels, typical of the Teutonic Order - pots, jugs, bowls, as well as clothing items - belt fittings, a leg of a glass that could serve as a dispenser for medicines in the 18th century, bottles from the 19th century with information about the capacity and mineral water bottles from a factory near Bydgoszcz.

"The expedition works very well, as evidenced by the discovered pins used to fasten garments. They do not differ much from the ones known today" - added Sulkowska-Tuszyńska.

Archaeological research conducted by students will most likely be the last in this object.

"Later there will be surveys organized by the conservation authorities, prior to the planned investments. The entire area will be explored, as an underground garage under the hotel complex is planned. We will soon finish our job. The state of exploration of the area, as per my expectations, is not yet satisfactory. But there is a chance that I will have access to the results of the surveys preceding investments" - she added.

Archaeologists believed that the hospital or shelter had existed in this building until the first half of the 19th century - when the Benedictine monastery was closed by the Prussians. But recovered address books would indicate that the building still served its function in 1932 - possibly only as a shelter.

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Tomasz Więcławski

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