Malbork Castle

Facts about Malbork Castle

We found 24 facts about Malbork Castle

The largest Gothic castle in the world

The castle in Malbork is the most powerful fortress in medieval Europe and the most outstanding example of that time's defensive and residential architecture. It was a symbol of the power of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, one of the three largest Christian orders of knights, next to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta and Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (Knight Templars) - the Teutonic Order. It was its capital and the residence of great masters.

The castle was destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries. It still looks awe-inspiring and is a huge tourist attraction for visitors from all over Europe who want to have a unique history lesson.

Malbork Castle
The Teutonic Order built the castle in several stages, from 1278 to 1457.

Initially, the castle was the conventual seat of the commander. Knight Commander was the head of the religious house in some knightly orders (Teutonic Knights, Knights of Malta, Templars). Later, in the monastic state, he was the administrator of a commandery (province), consisting of one or several castles and adjacent territory.

In the first stage of construction, the commander's stronghold - the High Castle - was built.

In the years 1280-1283, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, Konrad von Feuchtwangen, began the construction of a castle-fortress on the site of the ancient Prussian stronghold of Zantyr. The construction was prepared in advance by cutting down the forest and collecting building materials, partly from materials obtained from the demolition of the old monastic buildings of the castle in Zantyr.

The Dansker served as a toilet tower (latrine), as well as defensive functions because it was equipped with embrasures (shooting holes).

At the Malbork Castle, the road to Gdańsk was marked with carved devil-shaped supports whose tails pointed in the right direction. As the pond served as a toilet, cabbage leaves or hay could be found above it, which replaced toilet paper. The Dansker in Malbork also contained a trapdoor, which was used to get rid of uncomfortable brothers using the toilet. They went straight into the moat.

When the decision was made to move the seat of the Grand Master of the Order from Venice to Malbork, it became necessary to expand the castle.

In 1309, Malbork became the capital of the Teutonic State. Together with the Grand Master, a large number of monastic brothers came to Malbork, which required the reconstruction and expansion of the existing facility. The Middle Castle with a large refectory was built, then the grand master's palace, and then the Low Castle. A castle, a monastery, and a residence are three basic functions complemented by a well-organized economic and military base.

On the facade of the building, in the window recess of the presbytery, there is an 8-meter-high statue of the Virgin Mary and Child.

It was made of artificial stone and covered with a Venetian glass mosaic. The statue, along with the eastern part of the church, was destroyed in 1945 during artillery fire by the Red Army. Its reconstruction began in September 2014, and its official unveiling took place in 2016. 350.000 cubes made of two types of Venetian glass with embedded gold leaves were used to reconstruct the mosaic.

The castle in Malbork covers an area of 18 hectares and is the largest medieval castle in Europe.

The fortress was built of over 30 million bricks.

The Teutonic state was a military and economic power.

At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, it was the only country in Europe that did not have debts. On the contrary, the Teutonic Knights lent money to others.

The Teutonic Knights brought delicacies to Malbork that were very rare on other European tables, especially in northern Europe.

These included raisins, dates, lemons, and anise candies (particularly favorites of the monks). At the end of the 14th century, they imported sugar in lumps and rice, which was the most expensive at that time.

The best types of wine from southern Europe and the best types of beer were also imported. A wine cellar has been preserved in the Palace of the Grand Masters to this day, with excellent temperature conditions for storing alcoholic beverages.

The Teutonic Knights were knights of small stature. This is evidenced by, among others, small beds in the dorms.

However, it was not the height of the monks that determined the size of the bed, but the fact that they slept in a half-sitting position. They believed that if they lay completely in bed, they would bring death upon themselves because it took everyone lying down with it.

The wall separating the chapel of St. Anny had two small holes, which were associated with a legend.

It was said that these holes were bricked up. However, every attempt to brick them up, ended with the gaps reappearing the next day and the bricks used for them disappearing. It was said that the spirits of deceased great masters of the Order passed through these holes.

Along the powerful, 7-meter-high walls of the fortress, there was a deep moat filled with water.

However, the water did not come from the Nogat (delta branch of the Vistula River), over which the castle stands, but from a nearby lake, from where it was supplied through a series of artificial canals. Currently, the moat is dry.

When, after the Battle of Grunwald, King Władysław Jagiełło and his Polish-Lithuanian troops besieged Malbork Castle, there was a traitor inside the castle who hung a red flag in the refectory window.

It was supposed to be a sign to the besiegers that the most eminent personalities of the order were gathered in the summer refectory. The besiegers fired an 80-kilogram bullet that was supposed to hit one of the pillars supporting the entire structure. However, the bullet slightly missed the pillar and hit the wall above the refectory fireplace. To this day, a part of it is stuck in the wall.

After the Battle of Grunwald and as a result of previous military operations in the years 1409-1411, the Teutonic treasury, until then the most powerful and richest in Europe, began to run empty.

The Prussian Confederation, created from dissatisfied subjects (burghers and lay knights) of the Teutonic State, declared its obedience to the Order, which led to the attack on all Teutonic castles at the same time, most of which were captured within a few days. Only two or three castles, including Malbork, were not captured. As long as Malbork remained in the hands of the Teutonic Knights, the war was not won, so the insurgents went to the Polish king Casimir Jagiellon for help.

The Polish army took part in the capture of Malbork, which lasted 13 years (Thirteen Years' War). However, the castle in Malbork was not captured with weapons, but with money.

Malbork Castle was an impregnable fortress, so an agreement was reached with the mercenaries of the Teutonic Knights (mainly of German and Czech origin), who had not received pay for a long time, that Poland would pay them the outstanding pay, and in return, they would give up their castles, including Malbork. Malbork (as well as the castles in Iława and Tczew) were bought for 190.000 florins (a gold coin weighing approximately 3.5 g), which was the equivalent of 665 kg of gold.

In 1457, King Casimir Jagiellon ceremonially entered the castle in Malbork, which remained in the Kingdom of Poland for over 300 years.

Malbork was a royal castle, the king's temporary residence, and the banner of the Kingdom of Poland flew over it, although daily, the king was represented at the castle by the starosta of Malbork (an elder administrator). The castle encompassed the adjacent lands, especially Żuławy (Vistula Fens).

At that time, Malbork Castle also served as a state prison.

Criminals important to the state were held there.

Local parliaments and meetings of representatives of the Prussian estates were held in Malbork.

These meetings were held in the Palace of the Grand Masters. The Bishop of Warmia was represented several times by Nicolaus Copernicus. He was sent to various difficult tasks because he was considered an extremely smart person.

The castle in Malbork was an impregnable fortress, no one managed to do so in the Middle Ages. However, the Swedes managed to capture the castle.

In 1626, the Swedes under the command of Gustav II Adolf, using modern artillery, captured the castle in two days and stayed there for several years.

After the Swedish Deluge, the castle was still the seat of the starosta and local administration, but it lost its military importance.

The Swedes destroyed, plundered, and looted the castle.

Throughout the 18th century, the castle fell more and more into decline, until in 1772, when the first partition of Poland took place, Malbork and its lands were taken over by Prussia of Frederick II, known as the Great.

From then on, Malbork was part of various forms of the German state until the times of the Third Reich.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Germans carried out very extensive regothisation works in the castle.

Throughout history, the castle took on various forms, the style of the building changed, and the Germans decided to restore its original Gothic character. These works were entrusted to the German conservator of monuments, Konrad Steinbrecht, and after 20 years of conservation work, the rebuilt High Castle was officially opened. Steinbrecht managed the reconstruction of the Middle Castle and the Lower Castle only until 1921 when he retired. A museum began to function in the castle, where you could see exactly how the Teutonic Knights lived. It was as realistic as if the inhabitants had just left the place.

Throughout World War II, until 1945, the castle in Malbork remained virtually untouched by war activities.

When the second Belarusian front approached from the east, the German troops were mostly defeated. Some of them closed themselves in this medieval fortress and created a kind of resistance point there. The fighting lasted over two months, mainly tank artillery was used, and as a result of its action, over 50 percent of the historic castle was destroyed. The castle became a ruin and returned to Poland in this condition.

In 1961, the Castle Museum in Malbork was established and the reconstruction of the castle began.

The systematic reconstruction of the castle began, based on scientific research. Currently, the castle largely resembles the seat of the great monastic masters and Polish kings.

In 1997, the castle in Malbork was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List as an authentic and integral building.
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