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    Malbork (Ger. Marienburg) was founded as a settlement around the castle, of which construction was started in 1274, soon after Teutonic Order came to those lands. The village receive a status of a city based on Chelmno law in 1286, given by komtur Konrad von Thierberg. In around 30 years a small castle was built, containing among others convent house, chapels, courtyard and a bailey. There was also a Gdanisko built - it's a long passage with a tower built over a river, used as a lavatory and as defense tower. Castle was called Castle of Mary - Marienburg in German.

    On September 14, 1309 Grand Master of the order Siegfried von Feuchtwagen moved his office from Venice to Malbork, and so the castle and the city became the capital city of Teutonic Order's state. 400 men inhabited the city of Malbork at that time. As new needs appeared, the castle started to expand. After around 40 years long construction original castle has become today High Castle. It was surrounded by moats and walls and became the office of Grand Masters and the order's highest officials. The bailey became today Middle Castle - house of lower rank brothers and order's guests from the West. There was also a Great Refectory built here, infirmary for older and ill brothers and Palace of Grand Masters.

    After the battle at Grunwald on July 15th, 1410, king of Poland Ladislaus Jagiello was unsuccessfully besieging the castle for 2 months, nevertheless that test of the defensive system of the castle indicated necessity of changes, among others because of growing power of artillery. Some the shots fired from behind Nogat River reached rooms of Palace of Grand Masters. Defenders commemorated the successful defense by embedding a stone ball over the chimney.

    In XIV and XV century the complex gained third segment - today called Lower Castle, also called The Bailey. It contained Karwan - armory, granary, storehouse, as well as St. Lawrence chapel. All of those building were surrounded by walls, towers and moats and connected with defensive walls of the city.

    During Thirteen Years War, on June 7th, 1457, Malbork was occupied by Polish army, and later was included to Poland as a result of signing Peace of Torun in 1466. That day the castle became part of Poland for 315 years, and the period was started by entering the castle by king Casimir Jagiellon and the first governor of Royal Prussia Jan Blazynski. Grand Master Ludwig von Erlichshausen left the castle the day before, simultaneously moving the capital city to Konigsberg (today Kaliningrad). The castle changed its function from monastery to fortress and storage. Royal starosta (governor) and his murgrabia (deputy governor) became the administrators. The whole castle was since then neglected because of lack of funds for maintenance and restoration.

    Warfare of Polish-Swedish war generally spared the castle. The Swedes occupied the castle in 1626 and 1656. Swedish king Carl Gustaf order among others to surround the castle with ground ramparts, very few traces of those still exist. Poles never conquered the castle - it was given up as a result of peace signed in Oliwa.

    In may of 1644 the roofs of High Castle and some galleries burned down. In 1647 the roof of the church was restored. Because of slow restoration, in 1675 part of the vaulting collapsed, among others the one in chapter house. In XVIII by the order of king August II, new roof over High Castle was laid. In 1756-1767 a building of Jesuit college was built, they started taking care of the church of the Holiest Mary Virgin church. Restoration of the castle was limited to current repairs.

    As a result of I partition of Poland in 1772, Malbork was occupied by Prussian army. It became barracks and was rebuilt for the needs of the military. In 1799 Frederick William III ordered changing the High Castle into military storage. The voices for conservation, restoration and stopping dismemberments and reconstructions of the historical fortress were heard more and more often.

    After withdrawal of Napoleonic armies, in 1816 Administration for Restoration of Castle in Malbork (Ger. Schloßbauverwaltung Marienburg) was established. From now on medieval castle came under care of sensitive for beauty of the fortress restaurateurs and they dynamically restored its original shine. In 1872 in Malbork were held celebrations on the occasion of 100 years of returning of West Prussia to Kingdom of Prussia, which made the government sensitive for the beauty of the castle. In 1881 Prussian government decided to rebuild the church of the Holiest Mary Virgin in High Castle. Restauranteurs continuously gained numerous funds for care and reconstruction of the castle until the beginning of the World War II. The castle became a pride of the area, and all of the Prussia. In 1857 city of Malbork established railway connection with Berlin and Konigsberg.

    The flag of Third Reich was displayed on the castle on May 1st, 1933. The monument became a place of celebrations of high rank officers of NSDAP party. On September 1st, 1939, there was ceremonial announcement of return of the former territories of West Prussia to Germany. In May 1940 copies of the Teutonic Order's flags - Banderia Pruntenorum - were brought here from Wawel castle in Cracow. Operations of securing the castle from bombings started in 1944. All stained glasses were demounted.

    The castle was hurt a lot from warfare in 1945. The loss was estimated at 50%, and the old city of Malbork at 80%. Practically all of the destruction was made in the forties of twentieth century. In the sixties on that place a residential district called XX-Years of People's Republic of Poland was built.

    Starting in fifties the care of the castle is taken by PTTK (Polish Tourist and Country Lovers Society). The celebration of 500 years of liberation of Malbork was held in 1957. Its goal was to bring attention of government on the state of the monument, which resulted in establishing of Castle Museum on January 1st, 1961. In 1997 the complex was entered to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Marek Januszewski

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