Recognized as the largest castle in the world by surface area, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (as it is often referred as) boasts the most complete & illustrative example of the ‘Gothic’ brick complex which was fashioned in the unique style of the Teutonic Order. This imposing structure was built in 1274 when the monastic state in Prussia, founded by the Teutonic Knights, the ‘Catholic religious order of Germany’, was at its apex.
This classic medieval styled castle is located in the northern Poland’s Pomeranian region, along the Nogat River, in the ‘Vistula River delta’ near ‘Baltic Sea’. The castle was built in a form of an ‘Ordensburg Fortress’ & was named as ‘Marienburg’ (Mary’s Castle) after the ‘Virgin Mary’ who was the patron saint of the Order. The town surrounding the castle was also named as ‘Marienburg’.
This magnificent castle’s outermost wall encloses 52 acres (21 ha) of the area which is four times larger than the area enclosed by ‘Windsor Castle’! In 1997, UNESCO included the ‘Malbork Castle Museum’ as well as ‘Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork’ in the list of ‘World Heritage sites’. The castle is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland & was designated as Poland’s one of the official ‘National Historic Monuments’.
How To Reach:
‘Gdansk’ is the nearest city from the ‘Malbork Castle’. The castle is located 82 kms of the drive distance from ‘Gdansk’ via international road E77 followed by national road 55, which can take you to the castle within an hour or two.
Trains are available from ‘Gdansk’, ‘Krakow’, ‘Warsaw, ‘Berlin’ & ‘Kaliningrad’.
History In Brief:
The castle was built by the ‘Teutonic Orders’ after the conquest of old ‘Prussia’ in order to strengthen their stronghold over the ‘Pomeranian’ region. The castle was expanded several times to accommodate the growing numbers of Knights & soon it became the largest fortified Gothic structure in Europe. The strategic importance of the ‘Malbork Castle’ surged during the Teutonic Knights’ invasion on Gdansk & Pomerania in 1308 & it housed nearly 3,000 Teutonic warriors during that period.
Castle’s strategic position on the river ‘Nogat’ allowed convenient access via the water transport through the ‘Vistula’ & the ‘Baltic Sea’ & it also helped the ‘Teutonic Knights’ to establish the controlled monopoly on the trade of through the delta. In 1309, the headquarters of the ‘Order’ was moved to the ‘Malbork Castle’ from Venice & made it the seat of the ‘Grand Master’, which led to the significant expansion of this medieval marvel!
The castle has witnessed a bevy of the wars, the most important ones being the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 & the Thirteen Years’ War in 1456. From 1466 to 1772, the castle was the imperial residence of the ‘Polish monarchy’, although it was besieged by the ‘Swedish’ army during the Thirty Years’ War in 1626 to1629 & later on, from 1656 to 1660 during the Deluge.
The castle was left deserted for subsequent years until 1816, when it was substantially restored to its former glory following the initiatives taken by Theodor von Schon, ‘Oberprasident of West Prussia’. Many conservation techniques that were used for its restoration, later on, were universally accepted as the guidelines for restoring the ancient buildings.
The meticulously revamped castle, unfortunately became the victim of the World War II massacre & was severely damaged. The reconstruction was done once again, but it was too, got devastated in the fire of 1959. The all-inclusive facelift of the castle was started since 1962, although some of the parts, including the main cathedral, is still waiting for reincarnation!
Cool Facts of the Castle:
- This finest epitome of Europe’s medieval fortress architecture consists of three sections- the High, the Middle & the Lower castles. Each castle is separated by towers & dry moats. The interior of the castle consists of an intricate network of hallways, tunnels, rooms, the guard towers & courtyards.
- During the reign of Adolf Hitler, the castle was used as a place of annual pilgrimage of both the Hitler Youth & the League of German Girls.
- The castle complex is now converted into a museum, which is visited by the hordes of the tourists making it one of the most popular tourists destinations in northern Europe.
- The complete excursion through the castle complex takes around four hours which can be made more fruitful by availing the guided or audio tours available in several languages.
- July & August are the busiest months while May-June is the best period to explore the time bound majesty of this exceptional castle.
Over a span of almost 200 years, the magnificent ‘Malbrok Castle’ has remained one of the most eminent emblem of the medieval history of Europe. A trip to ‘Malbrok’ takes you through the bygone age of ferocious Teutonic Warriors, while the tapering towers which guard the sturdy ramparts, allow picturesque views of the surrounding riverfront!