While I was showing the beauty of Pomeranian region to Dani, one of the first things that came to my mind was the capital of Teutonic Order, magnificent Malbork castle. One of the largest castles in the world (some sources claim the largest) certainly makes a visitor look with respect on it’s high towers, thick walls and the architectural genius standing behind this enormous structure.
But first things first, so a little background story. I realised that this trip to Malbork was actually also following the steps of Teutonic Order after it has been thrown out of Siebenburgen / Transylvania region – you can read about it in my text about Sighisoara. So in 1226 Teutonic Order came to Pomerania, to fight the Holy War against one of the last pagans in Europe – Prussians. KInd like a northern crusade type of thing. And just like in Transylvania, they’ve built numerous castles and new cities, and raised their flag with German eagle and black cross.
Malbork (Marienburg) castle was at first one of the many fortresses raised to defend the land of the Order. But in the beginning of the 14th century the Great Master moved their capital here, and the castle has been expanded. In today’s form it is actually three semi-separate structures: the Low castle, where all the craftsmen’s workshops where located. The Middle castle with the everyday facilities for the Knights – infirmary, summer and winter dining room, Grand Masters’ Palace, Grand Refectory for the feasts… And the High castle, the last resort of defence, with the biggest and most prestigious chapel inside. All three castles are separated – in case one gets to the hands of the enemy, the other can still be defended. That’s a part of the reason why Malbork has never been conquered with a direct attack.
Going through all of this with a guide took as three-four hours, not counting climbing on the highest tower.
Castle lays on the bank of Nogat river. Teutonic Order gained big part of it’s wealth from controlling the rivers and taking toll from every tradesman sending his goods towards Baltic harbours like Gdańsk.
As in many cases – wealth and power lead to corruption. After defeating Prussians Teutonic Order had to keep justifying its existence by fighting other threats to Catholic Church. Their enemy of choice became Lithuania and christian Poland. Many of the knights had doubts if it’s a rightful thing for a Catholic Order, an armed arm of the Church, to stand against other christians… But the decay has already began. Defeated in the battle of Grunwald and later in Thirteen Years’ War, the castle fell finally into Polish hands. But it wasn’t conquered, oh no – the walls are too high and moats too deep. The Order became ruined financially because of their wars, and people of Gdańsk bought the castle from Bohemian mercenaries, which were not paid by the Teutonic Knights.
Over the 18th century and during World War II the castle has been damaged to a great extent. So much that until the late 50s Polish authorities planned to dismantle the ruins, but finally the decision about reconstruction has been made.
To this day some important facilities in the castle are completely ruined – like the church of Saint Mary. Luckily the Castle Museum got a grant this year for reconstruction of the church. So we were one of the last to see it demolished as on the following photos:
Tickets are not so cheap (around 10 euro per person + additional ticket for the tower), but is definitely worth the price. Maybe just watch out for the light & sound show, as it is more like a narrated story, only in Polish. Dani was highly disappointed though I tried to translate as much as possible.
To conclude – Malbork castle is on the list of “7 wonders of Poland” and that is well deserved place. If you are anywhere around Pomerania region give it a shot and you won’t regret!