Marienburg Castle in Malbork is the largest castle in the world. It is located 60 kilometers southeast of the city of Gdansk. While visiting Gdansk, be sure to plan an excursion to Malbork to see this magnificent knight`s castle. In 1997, it was included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List.
Marienburg Castle, built by the knights of the Teutonic Order, occupies an area of 20 hectares. It is divided into several courtyards: High Castle, Medium Castle and Low Castle. In the 14th century, the Palace of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order was built here.
History of the Teutonic Order
Marienburg Castle was founded in 1274 on the banks of the Nogat River by the knights of the Teutonic Order. The order itself was founded in 1190, when the German knight Heinrich Walport von Bassenheim founded a hospital in Palestine. This happened at the end of the Crusaders` possession of the Holy Land.
The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, and in 1187 Salah al-Din won it back. When the Crusaders owned the Holy Land, two chivalric orders of the Hospitallers and Templars appeared here and gained great power. The Teutonic Order was created according to the charter of the Templar Order, but it initially positioned itself as a German order.
For more than a hundred years after the fall of Jerusalem, the Crusaders continued to own the port city of Acre in Palestine. The residence of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order was located in Acre. In 1291, Acre fell under the onslaught of the Arabs. Some of the knights moved to Cyprus, and the Teutonic Order temporarily moved to Venice. The residence of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order was in Venice from 1291 to 1309.
There was no point in location the residence of the Grand Master in Venice. The Teutonic Order directed its actions to the north of Europe back in 1226, when it received a Golden Bull from the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II on freedom of action in the lands of the Prussians. But that time the center of the order was still in the Holy Land.
In 1309, the residence of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order was moved to Marienburg Castle, which for the next 150 years became the center of the Teutonic state. The Knights carried out an active expansion on the lands of the Baltic tribes and eventually occupied vast areas on the territory of modern Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. At its peak in the 14th century, the Teutonic state occupied significant territories in the Baltic land.
In 1410, the Teutonic Knights suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Grundwald from the joint forces of Poland and Lithuania. Most of the knights were killed or captured. Marienburg Castle withstood a two-month siege, but it could not be captured. After that, the Teutonic Order still existed for some time.
During the Thirty Years` War, in 1457, the Polish King Casimir IV bought Marienburg Castle from Bohemian mercenaries. After that, the Master of the Teutonic Order moved to Konigsberg, and Marienburg Castle became part of Poland.
History of Marienburg Castle
The oldest part of the castle was built in the period 1278-80. The knights revered the Virgin Mary, so the castle was named Marienburg. The most significant structure of the Marienburg Castle is a large tower and a High Castle, which housed the main premises of the Teutonic Order, including the Chapter Hall (Assembly Hall) and the Chapel.
Marienburg Castle acquired its current appearance in the 14th century, when its premises were constantly expanding. At this time, the Lower Castle appeared with a large courtyard, where the utility rooms were located. At that time, the castle became one of the largest in the world in occupied territory. In the 13th-14th centuries, the town of Malbork was formed around the castle.
The Palace of the Grand Masters and the Upper Castle have become one of the most interesting examples of Gothic in civil buildings. The vaults of many halls in the Palace of the Grand Masters in Marienburg Castle are made using stiffening ribs technology, similar to the vaults of Gothic cathedrals. Thanks to this, the architects managed to significantly increase the height of the arches, and make the windows in the walls large. For the first time this technology was used in the construction of cathedrals.
In addition to the Gothic structure of the vaults, the Marienburg Castle already in the Middle Ages began to use a heating system for large rooms using holes in the floor and convection of warm air through the castle rooms from furnaces that were in the basements.
It is very interesting to visit the Gdanisko Tower (Dunkster). It is located near the High Castle and is connected to it by a 50-meter corridor. This tower is actually constructed out of the castle. It served as a watchtower, but its main purpose was a sanitary function: the Dankser Tower was a toilet in Marienburg Castle.
During the WWII, Marienburg Castle was significantly damaged by air bombing. After the war, it was restored to its former greatness. Like the Old City of Warsaw, Polish architects carried out the restoration of the castle, taking into account all the requirements of the historical appearance. The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary remained in ruins for a long time, but it was also restored in 2016.