One of the largest in the world, and certainly one of the most impressive castles that have survived to our times. A masterpiece of defensive and residential architecture of the Middle Ages, with an area of approx. 21 hectares and a total cubage of buildings exceeding a quarter of a million cubic meters If anyone has not seen Malbork, they do not know what a real medieval fortress looks like.
Castle was built in stages
As the 13th Century was drawing to a close, the Teutonic Knights, who had been effectively appropriating the lands of the Prussian tribes for fifty years, commenced the construction of a castle that was to become the capital of their own State. Moving the Grand Master’s capital from Venice to Malbork took place the year after the Teutonic Knights conquered Gdańsk and its environs, which roughly corresponded to the present-day area of the Pomeranian Voivodeship.
The construction of such an extensive castle complex took a very long time. The structure was built in stages, while the necessary amounts of building material were gathered, particularly the millions of bricks needed to erect its thick and high walls.
The stronghold received a three-part structure. The High Castle – the centre of the defensive structure – housed rooms for friars – the members of the central convent, their dormitories, refectory, i.e. a dining room and chapterhouse, a place for meetings and consultations. The Middle Castle transferred its former economic functions to the Low Castle, which was built sometime later, to house the residence of the Grand Master – one of the finest Gothic buildings in the world – and the extensive structures meant for the always-numerous guests of the Order.
Surrounded by the many-layered walls and moats, and constantly modernised, the castle was virtually unconquerable. No army managed to capture it in a siege. The giant fortress that completely overshadows the adjacent town guaranteed the security and continuity of the Teutonic State’s seat of power. This proved vital in 1410, in the aftermath of the Battle of Grunwald. Sometimes, however, what cannot be conquered, can be bought. Such was the path taken by Casimir IV Jagiellon, when he purchased the castle from the Teutonic mercenaries who were not paid by the Order. This way, the very capital and the central stronghold of the Teutonic State fell into Polish hands, becoming a residence of the Polish king. And yet, the final blow to Teutonic power was still very far away.
This is only an introduction to the fascinating story of the Teutonic Order, the knightly battles, the Gothic castles, and the political games of the Middle Ages. To experience the rest you need to find yourself surrounded by the brick walls of the Malbork fortress, as there is no better place to weave tales about the rise and fall of the white-robed knights than in a castle that still reverberates with the echoes of their past formidable might.