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The Convent Gate

The Convent Gate

The Convent Gate, also called the Holy Spirit Gate, was erected in the 14th century as one of four gates leading into Toruń from the Vistula River port. Despite slight modifications, the gate has been preserved in its original form of a gothic gate tower with three ogival recesses.

The outer recess housed a wooden portcullis dropped in the time of siege. The space over the middle recess was hollow and the city defenders dropped heave objects and poured boiling-hot liquids. They used primarily boiled gruel which kept the heat well and mercilessly scalded the attackers. Hence the name of the opening through which the gruel was dropped which was known as kaszownik (gruel hole). The third recess sheltered a wooden door, additionally reinforced with metal elements, which used to be closed at dusk and opened at dawn.

The name of the gate is derived from the Bernardine Convent of the Holy Spirit which used to stand by the riverside and was destroyed during the Swedish invasion in mid-17th century. According to an old legend, a kind-hearted young nun called Katarzynka (Katherine) who once lived there in the time of a terrible starvation, found barrels full of gingerbread dough in the convent’s vaults. The gingerbread baked from the dough saved the lives of thousands of Toruń townsfolk and brought fame and recognition to the nun as Katarzynki, the most famous Toruń delicacy in the shape of six joined circles, was named after her.

The site of the former convent is currently occupied by the tall building of old Prussian barracks dating back to the first half of the 19th century. In the Interwar period it housed the first Polish Naval Academy. The Academy and Toruń’s connections to sea are commemorated today by an impressive anchor situated on the boulevard between the Convent Gate and the Vistula river. The road bridge that can be seen from here, named after Marshal Joseph Piłsudski, was opened in 1934. It was assembeled from the elements of a dismantled Prussian bridge which previously spanned Vistula near the town of Kwidzyn. Its bowstring girder structure looks particularly impressive at night when illuminated.