It is the largest gothic Castle complex in the world, with an area of approximately 21 hectares and total building cubature exceeding one quarter of a million cubic metres.
Malbork was built in stages, from the beginning of the the 1370’s. With time, it became the main element in the stronghold complex in Teutonic Prussia. Initially (from1280) it played the role of one of the Komturs’ Castles. In 1309, it became the home of the Order’s Grand Masters. It was comprehensively expanded, achieving the form of a triple defence foundation with the visibly-distinguished High Castle (a monastery), Medium Castle (home of the Grand Master and Grand Komtur, andpolitical and administrative centre of the monastic State) and the Przedzamcze (an extensive utility base). As the capital of the State of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, the Castle became a diplomatic, military, economic and religious centre. Until the first half of the 15th Century, Malbork was famous throughout the continent as one of the two headquarters of the Crusades into Lithuania and Samogitia, as well as a place of spectacular entertainment, feasts and tournaments, attracting knights from numerous European countries to Prussia.
In 1410 – following the defeat of the Teutonic army in the Battle of Grunwald – the fortress on the Nogat, which was not captured by the Polish and Lithuanian armies, preserved the further existence of the Order. The expanding political and economic crisis led to a revolt of the subjects (1454) and incorporation of the State into the Kingdom of Poland. In 1457, Malbork was purchased from the Teutonic mercenaries and fell under Casimir Jagiellon. From this time, for over three centuries, the stronghold fulfilled the role of the temporary residence of Polish rulers, the military base in Royal Prussia and the home of the starosts, who held administrational, military, police and court authority.
As a result of the first partition (1772), the northern land of Poland, which included the fortress on the Nogat, found itself within the limits of Prussia. During the Prussian period, the Castle served as barracks and storehouses. Heavily devastated, it regained its gothic form as the result of great reconstructions performed near the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century by the great architect Konrad Steinbrecht.
In 1945, the Poles once again took control of Malbork. The Castle was horrendously damaged during the last stage of World War II, but with time, it was able to rise from the ruins. It remains the focus of intensive conservation. In 1997, the Malbork Castle Complex was entered onto the prestigious UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
One of the most important interiors of the Castle is the Grand Refectory, which was the largest reception hall in the Malbork stronghold during the medieval times. It was here that the Grand Masters hosted their numerous guests from all over Europe; it also hosted the chapters. The room was built around the year 1340, is supported by three pillars and has dimensions of 30 metres long, 15 metres wide and 9 metres high. It is part of the west wing of the medium Castle. As it adjoins to the Palace of the Grand Masters, it is considered part of the so-called representative complex. Due to unfavourable construction events, this interior was seriously endangered, which led it to being inaccessible to visitors for 25 years. The intensive conservation work and preceding studies, 60% of which was funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism, the historical and architectural form of the interior from the beginning of the 20th Century was restored.
Today, the host of the fortress on the Nogat is the Castle Museum in Malbork, which was founded in 1961. Its main objectives include the protection of the historical substance of the Castle, research and conservation, the the collection and presentation of collections, as well as educational activities. The venue has twenty three artistic, artistic-craft, architectural and historical collections. The most interesting are the collections of amber products, militaria, antique coins, architectural details and sculptures.
Besides its main activity, the museum is also involved in the organisation of symposia, artistic, educational, musical and theatrical ventures, and even historical field presentations, such as the “Siege of Malbork”. The Castle on the Nogat frequently serves as a movie and television production location. During the summer, in the evenings, a “Light and Sound” production is presented within its walls.
By special request, the “Karwan” conference centre organises and conducts meetings for professional groups, feasts, workshops and adventure games in the Castle.