Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork
Castle Of The Teutonic Order In Malbork
Cultural Poland Europe And North America City And County Of Malbork, Pomeranian Voivodship (formerly Elblag Voivodship)

Malbork Castle is generally accepted as an architectural work of unique character. Many of the methods used by its builders in handling technical and artistic problems (among them the design and construction of the vaulting and portals and the use of architectural sculpture) greatly influenced Gothic buildings in a wide region of north-eastern Europe. The castle was built so as to make use of the rich repertoire of medieval defensive architecture on an exceptionally large scale. At the same time it was an architecturally perfectly planned economic, military, and administrative centre not only of the extensive Teutonic Order with branches all over Europe but also of the mighty state that it founded here. It was also the social residence of the Master of the Order, who was also head of state. Taking all these functions into account, the castle must be recognized as a unique creation, with no equivalent in Gothic architecture.

The castle is situated on a peninsula on the right bank of the Nogat River. To the south lay the Polish state, which had accepted Christianity in the 10th century. The missions organized by Polish rulers to bring Christianity to the Prussians had little success, and led to the martyrdom of St Adalbert (997) and St Bruno (1009). In 1215 Pope Innocent III created a missionary bishopric to the Prussians. The Polish Prince Conrad called upon the Teutonic Order for assistance, granting them lands on the frontier of his territory. The order established itself there, but the resistance of the Prussians lasted for half a century

The castle at Malbork (or Marienburg, its German name), work on which began after 1270, was among the most important of the many castles built by the order. Its importance increased greatly after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master of the Order was moved there from Venice. The original Fore Castle was adapted as his residence and administrative headquarters, the impressive palace of the Grand Masters being built in its south-west comer. The Great Refectory was built to the north of the palace;the north side of the Middle Castle was closed with a wing housing the hospital and the residence of the commander, and the chapel in the High Castle was enlarged, with a mortuary chapel of the Grand Masters dedicated to St Anne beneath the new presbytery. After the first partition in 1772, Malbork Castle became part of the Kingdom of Prussia and was promptly modified to serve as a barracks. A number of artists and intellectuals had begun to take an interest in the castle, and as a result of their pressure it was designated a historic monument in 1804. It was partly destroyed at the end of the Second World War, and since 1947 there have been continuous campaigns for its reconstruction and restoration.

The High Castle was the convent of the Teutonic Order in the final phase. It is square in plan, with a central courtyard, and it contained living accommodation for the knights, with dormitories, refectories, kitchens and extensive storage facilities. Attached to it is the Conventual Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally on the first floor of the eastern wing and extended outside the perimeter of the High Castle with a new presbytery. The main portal, the Golden Gate, retains much of its original polychrome decoration.

The Middle Castle and the High Castle were surrounded by fortifications of walls, ramparts and moats. When Malbork became the seat of the Grand Master of the Order, a new three-sided enclosure was created, communicating with the High Castle by a drawbridge. The entrance gate to the High Castle and the Great Refectory are outstanding examples of High Gothic, with slender vaulting and large windows providing an atmosphere of soaring space and light. This section also houses the infirmary, the quarters of the military commander, and a guest wing used by visiting dignitaries of the order and secular knights.

When the 14th-century enlargement took place, a new Fore Castle was created, and the fortifications extended to defend the entire complex. A monumental gateway in the north wing of the Middle Castle gives access to the central open space of the Fore Castle. The buildings in this section were quarters for the servants of the order, workshops, armouries, cannon foundries, other services, a stable and wagon house complex, and a chapel dedicated to St Lawrence. The whole complex is surrounded by an intricate system of defensive works, including massive walls and bastions, wet and dry moats and ditches, earthen ramparts and ponds (which also served to supply the castle with water).