Teutonic Castle

Teutonic Castle

In the city of Malbork still stands a majestic castle built seven centuries ago . Despite the fact that crowds of tourists visit its walls every day, Marienburg still remembers the proud and steadfast Teutonic Knights.

Where did the Teutonic Knights come from in Poland?

Teutonic Fortress - Photo 2

Where did the Teutonic Knights come from in Poland?

The Teutonic Order was much younger than the Templar and Hospitaller orders. Initially, it was not intended for warfare: the brothers generally assisted pilgrims and cared for the wounded. The brotherhood was soon spotted by the notorious Frederick of Swabia, who took it under his patronage and petitioned a papal charter in its favor. Pope Innocent III approved its charter in 1199. The military monastic brotherhood was officially recognized as a full-fledged order of chivalry. Not even ten years after the founding of the Order, his brothers managed to earn themselves an impeccable reputation. The influence of the Teutonic Knights gradually grew. A telling example are the achievements of the Grand Master Hermann von Salz. He managed to achieve for his Order the same privileges as had the Johannites and Templars. As a skilful diplomat, von Salza was held in high esteem by both Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX: the Grand Master often acted as mediator in their negotiations, and after his death the monarch and pontiff never found common ground. All of the above could not remain unnoticed by a number of powers that wished to eliminate smaller feudal entities under the banner of “fighting the pagans. One of those who decided to resort to the help of crusaders was Konrad Mazowiecki. He hoped to get support against the Prussians. The prince asked the Teutons to stop the attacks of the pagans on the princely lands. In 1231 they arrived in the Baltics .

The Pope issued an edict approving the crusade in Masovia and known as the “Golden Bull”. The Bull allowed the Knights of the Order complete freedom of action in the conquered lands. The territories that the Teutonians had been given to them were formally placed under the authority of the Holy See, which did not prevent the crusaders from behaving in a masterly manner in the Baltic. They managed to exterminate most of the Prussians and forced the few survivors to assimilate with the German colonists.

History of the castle

Teutonic Fortress - Photo 3

History of the castle

The castle, named Marienburg after the Virgin Mary, was founded on the banks of the Nogata River in 1274. This place was not chosen by chance: the river proximity and marshy terrain with a distinctive small hill created suitable conditions for defending the building. The first phase of the construction began in about 1278 and lasted for three years. In the course of it the chateau (Middle Castle) and the main castle (Upper Castle) were erected, the monastery was moved from the nearby Zantyry. The lower castle, which was a subsidiary part of the complex, was separated from the Middle Castle by a moat and was located on the north side.

Teutonic Fortress - photo 4

History of the castle

The northern wing was the first to appear. It housed living quarters and a chapel, as well as a special hall intended for meetings. The western wing, built a little later, had the refectory. The komtur’s dwelling was also located there. The workshops were built in the southern and eastern part. Later on, two towers were added to the castle – the earlier “dansquerre” and the “klesha” opposite, which served as additional observation decks that provided a view for several miles around. In addition, the dansker was also a sanitary tower (a prototype of the modern public toilet) and, according to legend, often served as a place for removing those in disgrace. At that time Marienburg was not as strategically important as it was later and was considered a Comturian castle – the smallest of the administrative units on the lands under the control of the Teutonic Order. In 1309 the center of the Teutonic Order was no longer Venice, and its place was taken by Marienburg. Henceforth it was the location of all the most important meetings of the Knights of the Order. The fortress was not only a place of location of troops, but also a monastery, as evidenced by the peculiarities of its architecture. To enter the structure, one had to pass four drawbridges and fourteen gates. Each of the entrances to Marienburg was carefully prepared to withstand attack should the enemy break through. The triple ring of walls was also very important for defense: if one level was in danger, the defenders of Marienburg could retreat to the next level and continue to fight. Each part of the fortress was equipped with its own arsenal, a stock of provisions for several months and was supplied with water separately from the others, so that each of the parts could defend itself. The heart of the fortress was the assembly hall. It had an interesting feature. With the help of a network of underground ducts, a system of heating for the floor was set up. True, the system had a disadvantage. One could overhear everything that was being said in the assembly hall – one only had to know the places where one could hear best. According to a legend, it was fought with music: in the chapel, located nearby, during the discussion of important issues the organ used to play all the time. In the Upper Castle the chapter, composed of the most respected members of the order, held its meetings. Not far from the entrance to the Chapter hall, one of the few parts of the complex that have survived in its entirety since the 13th century, is the Golden Gate. It is the Golden Gate, the entrance to the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The portal is decorated with scenes of the Last Judgment and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. All figures are made of clay and brightly painted. In the church itself there was once an eight-meter statue of the Virgin Mary, but it has not survived to this day. During the Great War (1409-1411) Marienburg was besieged. Marienburg was besieged. Allied forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland almost completely destroyed the city around it, but they never got to have the castle. Order later, in 1456, had to give the castle mercenaries from the Czech Republic, which had to pay somehow, and they, in turn, sold it to Casimir IV. Thus the castle ended up in the ownership of Poland.

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Teutonic Fortress - photo 5

History of the castle

The castle, while retaining its grandeur, has survived many centuries. There was a period when it belonged to the Swedes . For a time it housed barracks and an armory. As the castle slowly deteriorated it was drawn to the attention of the architect David Gilli who sketched the ruins and published sketches, which aroused the interest of Gothic lovers, and contributed to its restoration. In the 1930s the Marienburg was often used as a meeting place for the Hitler Youth. After World War II it was eventually rebuilt, which even turned out well. The castle tolerated everything. And – it always seemed as if it quietly watched everything that happened in it, silently following the fates of people.

Marienburg today

Teutonic fortress - photo 6

Marienburg today

In a short time the castle became one of the most visited sights in northern Poland. It is perhaps Europe’s most striking example of Gothic structures built of brick. Not surprisingly, Marienburg is protected by UNESCO . Marienburg has a permanent exhibition as well as a unique collection of medieval sculpture, ceramics, stained glass, weapons and amber. On the territory of the fortress are often held concerts. There is also a recreation of the siege of Marienburg which enthralls visitors with its great entertainment value.


“When the crusaders invaded what is now Poland, they set up their castles in Torun and Nieszawa. So far I can’t find information where the Nieszawa castle was located – on the site of the ruins of today’s Dybowski or somewhere else. “

A difficult task indeed. Probably already turned over half of the Internet in search of information, but let’s try to find out something together.

So, a bit of history.

At the end of the XII century began an adventurous epic that lasted more than a hundred years, known to us as the Crusades. The Crusaders experienced many disappointments. The idealism on which the first Knights Templar and Hospitaller orders arose soon waned. It was at this point that a new, more mercantile order of chivalry came into being. This order did not emerge at the initiative of the clergy or the military elite. Its founding fathers were merchants from two cities of the Hanseatic League: Bremen and Lübeck. These merchants traded extensively in the Holy Land and witnessed all the horrors that accompanied the siege of Acre. As a result, they organized a temporary field hospital, whose tents were the removed sails of a ship. In return, the merchants were promised land after Acre had been taken.

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When Acre fell, a hospital and an inn were built on the land allotted. In 1196, Pope Celestine III gave the community the status of a spiritual corporation, and in 1199 Pope Innocent confirmed this status and later transformed the corporation into an order of chivalry. In doing so, the knightly charter was borrowed from the Knights Templar and the Hospitaller charter from the Hospitallers. This created the Order of the Servants of St. Mary in Jerusalem, later known as the Teutonic Order. The new order of German knights had not shown itself in any way in combat operations in the Holy Land. Nor could it boast the fabulous wealth that other orders had amassed. The Order remained an exclusively German organization, and there were very few foreigners in its ranks. The main feature of the Teutonic Order was its close connection with Germanic townspeople – burghers. As we shall see in the future, this bond was particularly strong during the Order’s operations in Prussia, where the Order was involved in building castles and towns, as well as engaging in trade.

The development of the castles of the Teutonic Order was closely linked to the Order’s expansion into Prussia. As the border moved forward, new temporary fortifications were built, which gradually turned into permanent castles.There are three historical phases in the history of the castles of the Order. The first phase lasted from 1230 to 1283. It was the era of the conquest of Prussia. At that time wooden forts were built, which were gradually replaced by brick buildings, many of which have survived to this day. The castles were used for defense and offensive against the Prussian Gentiles. The second phase began with the Lithuanian Crusade in 1283. During this phase the castles acted as bases for the Teutonic Order’s advancement eastward. The third phase started when the Polish and Lithuanian crowns merged in 1386. As a result, the castles of the Order found themselves under serious threat from the new Christian state. This threat reached its climax at the beginning of the 15th century, when the famous Battle of Grunwald (1410) took place. As a result of the Peace of Turin (1466), almost all the castles of the Order fell to Poland, and the Order itself became a vassal of the Polish crown.

A map showing the location of the most important castles of the Teutonic Order

The conversion to Catholicism of pagan Prussia was based on the carrot and stick method. The Order was always supported by the Hanseatic League, Polish knights, papal legates and German colonists. The Order also exhibited great diplomatic skill, which allowed it to rule alone in the conquered lands. The land on which the Teutonic castle was erected was considered the land of the Order, and the Order obeyed only the Pope and no one else.

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When the Prussian Crusade began in the first half of the 13th century, many pagan tribes inhabited this part of Europe. A single state did not exist here, and local rulers tried to maintain independence from both Christian and pagan neighbors. The local areas bore rather exotic names: Pogesania, Nattangia, or Varmia. Prussian farmers and hunters occasionally raided neighboring territories, and the rest of the time traded with foreign merchants who came to the Vistula delta.This was a wild country of forests and swamps, stretching from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Polish border in the south and west and the Lithuanian forests in the east. In the past there were attempts to colonize these lands, but only the Teutonic Order succeeded in breaking the resistance of the locals

The Toruni bugle.

An important event took place in 1223. A motley army of Germanic and Polish knights gathered in Kulm (Chelmno) for a campaign against the Prussian pagans. This campaign provoked a fierce counterattack by the Pagans, which resulted in heavy losses on the part of the Crusaders. As a result of this catastrophe, Duke Konrad of Masovia invited the Teutonic Order to Poland to help him restore the situation. In return for its services the Order demanded the area of Chelmno and all the lands that could be conquered during the operation. The Grandmaster of the Order, Hermann von Salz, grabbed luck by the tail. With the support of Emperor Frederick II, in 1226 the Pope issued the Rimini Golden Bull, which defined to the smallest detail the constitution of the state the Teutons were to create on Prussian territory. Thus began the campaign of the Teutonic Order. The order received its first castle from Conrad of Magowiec. It was situated on a hill on the southern bank of the Vistula River, in front of the place where a new town Torun (Torn) would later appear, not far from where Drwęca (Drevenp.) flows into the Vistula.

The garrison of the castle consisted of only seven knights, headed by Konrad von Landsberg from Brandenburg. In addition, up to a hundred squires and sergeants lived in the castle, as well as many servants who baked bread, brewed beer, did the laundry and looked after the horses. The order retained its essence of monastic chivalry. By tradition, inherited from its time in the Holy Land, the Order had physicians as members. The first Teutonic castle was named Vogelsang – “the swan song”.

Here we found the first castle, which was in the question of the order’s table.

It is the very first castle founded by the Teutons in Prussia, destroyed in 1454 at the beginning of the Thirteenth War. Here is the first line of defense, on the right side you can see the entrance gate and on the left side you can see the danzker tower. The only thing left of the castle in its original form is the danzker.

Right in the center of town are the mothballed ruins of a crusader castle. It was not destined to stand for long. It was founded around 1236 and was destroyed in 1454.

Reconstruction of the castle

There is also this information:

-1232 – In Poland, on the right bank of the Vistula, the Teutons built the first fort, then founded the towns of Chelmno and Kwidzyn. Their tactics were the same: after suppressing the local pagan head, the population was forcibly converted to Christianity, a castle was built, and the land around it was used by the arriving Germans. The capital of the Teutons in Prussia was the city of Marienburg (German: “Castle of Mary”). Moving eastward, the knights built many castles and fortresses along the way. (Pruf)

Many Gothic buildings have survived in Toruń: the Gothic cathedral, the old town hall, the ruins of one of the first Teutonic castles in Poland, the city defensive walls with gates and towers, as well as Gothic houses and barns.

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The historical complex of Torun consists of three parts: 1. old town, 2. new town, 3. Teutonic knightly castle of XIII century.

Crusader castle ruins

The construction of the castle started in 1236 on the site of Polish settlements of X-XII centuries, which gave a shape of a horseshoe, not typical of the Teutonic castles of XIV-XV centuries. It was the first Teutonic castle on the territory of Poland. The castle was built on a small rise, on the banks of the Vistula River. Its architectural composition can be divided into three parts: 1. The high castle (chapel, dining hall, dormitory and other premises for knights). 2. Wide interior space. 3. The foot of the castle (economic buildings: stables, mills, bakeries, breweries, granaries, smithies, stables, etc.). But already in 1454 the castle was conquered and destroyed by the inhabitants of the old city of Torun, at the beginning of the revolt of the Teutonic Order (13 Years War). This war was ended in 1466 with the signing of the second Treaty of Torun. Torun receives the title of royal city.

Both parts of the old quarter of Torun (the Old and New Town) were once surrounded by huge medieval defensive fortifications. Defensive walls of brick, fortified with bastions were built. These walls were a defensive system consisting of a double line of walls and a ditch between them filled with water. The total length of the walls was about 4 km and had 11 gates. Until today, only about a kilometer of wall survived (mostly from the side of the Vistula), 9 towers and 3 gates, the remaining parts of the fortifications were demolished in the XIX century.

So, with the first fortress defined. And what we see next.

In the vicinity of Chelmno there was a relatively small pagan population. The situation worsened when Conrad led his army out of the castle and began to ravage the homes of those who refused to accept Catholicism. In 1230 the Teutonians received reinforcements in the form of Hermann Balke’s regiment, who for many years led a crusade into Prussia. It was he who built a second castle down the Vistula . This castle became the base from which the Teutonians attacked the opposite bank of the Vistula. Initially, the Teutonians tried to attack directly to the east, deep into the Prussian forests. Balke decided to change his strategy and first secure his position north along the Vistula. In a short time the entire population in the Chelmno area was converted to Catholicism. Konrad Mazowiecki kept his word and left the conquered territory to the Order. In 1231, the castle of Torn (Torun) was founded on the northern bank of the Vistula, opposite Fogezgzang. Chelmno was renamed Kulm, the surrounding area Kul-merland. In 1232 the ruined castle of Kulm was rebuilt.

Or let’s trace the chain again .

In December of 1230 (according to other information, in spring of 1231), after waiting for the Vistula to rise, the Order brothers and their knights, headed by Hermann von Balck, appointed Landmeister of Prussia, together with a group of crusaders crossed to the eastern bank of the river. The first Prussian fortification they captured was adapted by them as a temporary shelter. This fortress was named Thorn. In the same year on the very bank of the river they found a place where they decided to lay a castle, which was also named Thorn. Therefore the first fortification was called Alt Thorn or Old Thorn.

In this, 1231, the Order no longer planned to advance deep into Prussia. The main task was to fortify and build up its bridgehead on the right bank of the Vistula, thus getting a solid base for further movement to the north and east. The following year the Order actively began to advance into the Prussian lands. The next castles founded by the Order were Althaus and nearby Kulm . But the supply routes from Thorn were not blocked and therefore were attacked by the Prussians. The Order was forced to lay another castle, Birgelau, on the road between the castles of Torn and Althaus.

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For 1239-40 the Order had 21 fortified points. But the plans of the Order were interfered with by the Prussian revolt that began. As a result, many castles were seized and destroyed. The uprising lasted about 7 years. During this period the Order built 5 temporary castles, 4 of them were located along the Vistula – 2 of them on the left bank – because the supply through the Thorn was interrupted.

So the question of the second castle “Neshave” remains in limbo. By the way, it is not mentioned anywhere, by the way, here is the Order of the Teutonic Order castles appearance for those, who might be interested.

Well, we go back to the history of crusaders in Poland.

The Redej (Radzyp-Hielski) castle was founded in 1234 for protecting Kumerlaid from the East. At the end of the XIII century the castle was rebuilt in brick. In 1410 the castle was devastated. Its ruins still testify to the former might of the order. Externally patterned bricks were used for the exterior decoration of the castle. The tall and narrow windows give the castle the appearance of a fortified church.

With two castles, Culm and Torn, the Teutons continued their war with the same cruelty. The pagans responded in kind. Thus, the Teutons slaughtered all who refused to embrace Catholicism, and the Pagans killed all who embraced Catholicism. However, the Teutonians gradually pushed back the pagans and in 1232 founded another, very important castle. This castle was called Ma-rienwerder, now known as Kwidzyn. Apparently, a year earlier, Balx had experienced problems because of the unwillingness of the knights to bother with physical work on their dignity. So for this campaign he secured a special circular from the Pana, which stressed the importance of building work. Pan’s letters of commendation instructed the proud knights. Among the builders of Marenver-der are mentioned the names of Conrad of May-vec and Henry of Silesia, who, incidentally, would soon be killed in battle with the Mongols at Lignitz. An additional lure for the builders was a particle of the Holy Cross, kept in Mariepwerder. Balke gathered ample supplies, announcing that a campaign would follow once construction was completed. The wooden castle was built in only four weeks. After construction, many knights went home, but many stayed for the winter, waiting for the promised campaign to begin. The fighting began on the border of Pomezania on the river Sirguls. The Teutonians and their allied Poles forced the river across the ice and inflicted a heavy defeat on the Prussian army.

Marienburg Castle, fully restored to its present day. The castle serves as a tourist center and is one of Europe’s most beautiful castles. The picture was taken from the opposite bank of the Nogat River. You can see the two twin towers that once covered the bridge over the river.

But soon the Poles went home. The order alone did not have the strength to build on their success. So Balke proceeded to reinforce the positions already conquered. The next Teutonic castle was Reden (now Radzyn of Xe.i-min), founded in 1234. This castle covered Culmerland from the east. It took more than two years before the expansion continued. The pause was due, among other reasons, to the defeat of the Order of the Swordsmen at the Battle of Saul in 1236. The remains of the order merged with the Teutonic Order. As a result the area of interest of the order now stretched from Vistula to Novgorod.

And then there would be two Prussian uprisings and the fall of the Teutonic Order. Here is a summary

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