of Marienburg - Malbork - Poland
The Castle in Malbork (German: Die Marienburg, Polish: Zamek w Malborku)
was built in Prussia by the Teutonic Order as an Ordensburg. The Order
named it Marienburg, literally "Mary's Castle". The town which grew around
it was also named Marienburg, but since 1945 it is again, after 173 years,
part of Poland and known as Malbork.
The castle is a classic example of a
medieval fortress, and is the world's
largest brick gothic castle. UNESCO listed the castle and its museum as
Heritage Sites in December 1997 as Castle of the Teutonic Order in
Malbork. It is one of two World Heritage Sites in
the region with origins
in the Teutonic Order. The other is the Medieval Town of Toruń, founded
in 1231 as
the site of the castle Thorn (Toruń).
The castle was founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Order
during their government
of Prussia and is located on the Southeastern bank of the river Nogat.
It was named Marienburg
after the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the Order.
Order had been based in Acre, but when this last stronghold of the
Crusades fell, the Order had to move its headquarters
In 1309,in the wake of both the papal persecution of the Knights Templar
as well as the Teutonic takeover
of Danzig, the Order under Siegfried
von Feuchtwangen moved its headquarters into the Prussian part of their
state. They chose the Marienburg, conveniently located on the
Nogat, in the Vistula Delta, which allows access by ship.
The castle was expanded several time to host the growing
number of Knights,
and became the largest fortified Gothic building in Europe, featuring several
and walls. It consists of three separate sections - the High, Middle
and Lower Castles, separated by multiple
dry moats and towers. The castle once
housed approximately 3,000 "brothers in arms", and the outermost
enclose 52 acres (210,000 m²), four times larger than the enclosed space of
The favourable position of the castle on the river Nogat and
flat surrounding allowed for easy access by barges and trading ships, from
the Vistula and the
Baltic Sea. During their governance, the Teutonic Knights
collected river tolls on passing ships, as did other castles
along the rivers
imposing a monopoly on the trade of amber. When the city became a member of
the Hanseatic League,
many Hanseatic meetings were held at Marienburg castle.
the summer of 1410, the castle was besieged following defeat by the armies
of Władysław II Jagiełło
at the Battle of Grunwald, but Heinrich von Plauen
successfully led the defense in the Siege of Marienburg (1410), during
the city itself was razed.
In 1456, during the Thirteen Years' War, the Order-deserted
and opposed for
establishing taxes to pay high ransoms for prisoners taken by the Polish king
-could not pay its
mercenaries. Hochmeister Ludwig von Erlichshausen moved the
seat of the Order to Königsberg, and gave the castle
to the Bohemian mercenaries
as payment. The mercenaries left, after selling the castle to King Casimir IV
who thus acquired what he and his predecessor could not conquer.
He entered the castle triumphantly in 1457.
Under mayor Bartholomäus Blume, the city itself resisted the Polish
three more years, until the Poles captured and hanged Blume in 1460. A monument
to him was erected
in 1864. Castle and town became part of Royal Prussia in
1466, and served as one of the several Polish royal residences.
During the Thirty
Years' War, in 1626 and 1629, Swedes occupied the castle, and again from 1656 to
1660 in The Deluge
(Polish history) during the Northern Wars.
Modern times Post WWII ruins of
After the First Partition
of Poland in 1772 the town became part of the Kingdom of
Prussia province of West Prussia. At that time the rather neglected
castle was used
as poorhouse and barracks for the Prussian Army. In 1794 David Gilly, a Prussian
head of the Oberbaudepartement, was ordered to make a structural survey
of the castle, to decide about its future use
or even its complete demolition.
Gilly's son, Friedrich Gilly, produced several engravings of the castle and its
architecture, which he exhibited in Berlin and had published by Friedrich Frick from
1799 to 1803. These engravings
led to a "rediscovery" of the castle and the history
of the Teutonic Knights by the Prussian public.
Johann Dominicus Fiorillo published a recension of the engravings
on 12 February 1803.
Fiorillo said he hoped the engravings would encourage public interest, and Max von
critizised the defacement of the castle. Throughout the Napoleonic period
the castle was used as a hospital and arsenal,
but after Prussia was liberated again,
it became a symbol of Prussian history and national consciousness. Reconstruction
began after 1816 on the initiative of Theodor von Schön, Oberpräsident of West Prussia,
and lasted with
varying intensity until World War II started
With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in the early 1930s
the Nazis began using the site
for annual pilgramages by both the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. It was
the Teutonic Castle at Marienburg, Malbork that served as the blue print for the Order
Castles of the Third Reich.
World War II combat in 1945 destroyed more than half of
the castle. At the conclusion of
World War II, the castle, together with the surrounding city, became part of Poland.
A fire in 1959 caused further damage. It has since been mostly rebuilt, with restoration
ongoing since 1962. However,
the main cathedral in the castle, fully restored just before
the war, remains in ruins.