St. James's church was erected in the first half of the 14th century as a parish church for the residents of the New Town of Toruń founded in 1264. Owing to its unique architectural design, it is considered as the most beautiful Gothic sacral building in Toruń. The church was built based on the designs of the western-European stone cathedrals – the weight of the vaults over the nave was transferred onto the flying buttresses.
Only one of the buttresses, arching over the roof of a small sacristy, can still be seen today as the others were incorporated in the 15th century into the walls of the side chapels raised at that time. In the 14th century, the presbytery was richly decorated with tracery ornaments and brickwork architectural features that create a breathtaking Gothic composition, still preserved today.
The exterior of the church is decorated with an inscription running along the walls of the presbytery which informs about the inception of the construction works of the church. In front of the church, at the foot of the Baroque sculpture of St. James the Apostle, there is a unique symbol – a sign of a shell, which indicates that Toruń and the church itself are an important place on the historical pilgrimage route leading from the Baltic states, through Poland, to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostella.. Throughout its history, the church has been used both by Catholics and Lutherans. From 1667, for over 150 years, it was administered by Benedictine nuns.
The church houses numerous magnificent works of art. Among the most outstanding pieces is the Gothic crucifix depicting Jesus Christ crucified on the tree of life whose branches are entwined with the carved figures of the 12 prophets of the Old Testament. Another invaluable features are the murals dated from 14th-15th century and the painting containing twenty two connected scenes of the Passion of Christ in the presbytery. The characters included in the painting became models for several small sculptures representing medieval burghers of Toruń. These figures can be admired on the historical wall which runs along Podmurna street and in the Old Town Hall courtyard. The nave features an impressive Baroque high altar and a Renaissance organ, one of the oldest such instruments in Poland. Built in 1611, it is lavishly decorated with intricate carvings and coats of arms of the Royal Prussia and the Old Town and the New Town of Toruń. Today its music fills the enchanting interior brimming with unique and precious artifacts.