Malbork Castle is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Poland. In the plebiscite of newspaper Rzeczpospolita castle was recognized as one of the seven wonders of Poland. In 1997 it was added to the list of World Heritage UNESCO. Each year in Malbork an outdoor event called “The Siege of Malbork” is held, which is staging the siege of the castle by the army of Wladyslaw Jagiello following the battle of Grunwald.
Castle with area of 21 hectares is the largest castle in the world in terms of the surface. It is built of brick which makes it largest brick building in Europe. Originally known as Marienburg, Malbork Castle is one of the largest surviving Gothic fortified buildings in Europe.
In the years 1309-1457 Malbork was the seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, and the town surrounding the castle was the capital of the Teutonic Order.
How Teutonic Knights found themselves in Poland?
Knights of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (in Poland abbreviated called the Teutonic Knights – named after black cross worn on coats) were invited to Poland after the year 1226 by Konrad Mazowiecki. They were supposed to fight pagan Prussian tribes which threatened the lands of Prince Konrad, but it soon became apparent that the Teutonic Knights had completely different plans. Using the intrigues and assistance of the German Emperor Frederick II and the papal legate they obtained the so-called Golden Bull, giving them possession of the Chelminska land.
Why was a castle build in Malbork?
While conquering Prussia, the Teutonic Knights had used terror and quickly became an object of hatred for the people of Prussia. This has led to the outbreak of the Prussian Uprising. Teutonic Knights realized they need to build a castle in the area of Lower Vistula to consolidate their power. Marienburg was born – at that time lying at the crossroads of trade routes (such as the Amber Road), on one side surrounded by the river Nogat, while on the land side protected by a swamp; it was the ideal place for a powerful fortress.
Preparations for the construction of the castle started in 1278 from the felling of the forest and collect bricks, wood and stones for the foundation. About 4 480 000 bricks and tiles were used between years 1278-1280.
At first high castle and ward (now the Middle Castle) were built, where 3 200 000 bricks and tiles were used for construction. Then external walls were built using 1 280 000 bricks. The most important interiors for the Teutonic Knights arose in the north wing: the chapter house (sometimes used as a dining room), dormitories and a chapel. This was followed by the west wing, where was the chamber of the commander, office, kitchen and refectory (dining room) for the monks. Convention of Teutonic Knights moved to the newly formed Castle in the year 1280, giving it a new name Marienburg (Mary’s Castle).
Why is Marienburg so huge?
By the year 1271 Marienburg, being Komtur’s castle, did not stand out from any other Teutonic Knights’ castles. However, in 1271 the Turks conquered Teutonic Knights headquarters in the Middle East – Montfort castle. Twenty years later, Acre fell and with it the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which put an end to the Teutonic Knights’ activities in the Holy Land. The Chapter of the Order moved to Venice but gaining Gdansk and Pomerania by the Teutonic Knights in the years 1308-1343 made Malbork as the new headquarters of the Grand Master of the Order.
Because Malbork was supposed to perform representative functions, further development of the castle was initiated. The High Castle and the castle church of Our Lady were extended.
The Ward was transformed into the Medium Castle so it could fulfill representative functions.
New hospitable chambers for foreign visitors arriving for expeditions organized by Teutonic Knights were established.In the west wing great Refectory for the meeting of the Chapter of the Order was build, while in the southern wing knights built the Palace of the Grand Masters - equal to the best residences of contemporary architecture in Europe. The existing ward space in the house was moved to the area adjacent to the Medium Castle. The outer walls were extended.
What is worth seeing?
Malbork Castle, becoming the headquarters of the Grand Master and the Chapter of the Order, received the grand design of sculpture and painting. Castle testified about the power of Order and were supposed to impress guests from Western Europe. In the Castle Museum of Malbork, you can find among others:
- St. Anna Chapel
- Dormitories – an exhibition of sculpture and of the interior of the castle church
- Castle Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- The refectory of the Convention
- Great Refectory
- A medieval heating system
- An exhibition of weapons and armaments
- The cellars under the Palace of the Grand Masters
- An exhibition of amber: Halberd Hall
- Palace of Grand Masters