Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Our Visit to Malbork Castle

In November, we visited the largest medieval brick castle and fortress in the world.

Where: in northern Poland, city of Malbork

The castle is situated by the Nogat river, in the mouth of the Vistula. It was built by the Teutonic Knights - the construction started in the 13th century.


Who were the Knights?

They were a military, Catholic, and religious order started in the 12th century to protect the pilgrims (who traveled to the Holy Land) and the Baltic states as well. The Teutonic Order's full name was The Order of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the German House of Jerusalem. At first, the order's capital was in Acre (nowadays - Israel area).

The Patroness of the Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights built the castle in Malbork (called Marienburg then) to control their Prussian territory and the Baltic tribes - people who lived in the area - and the region of Pomerania as well.
The construction of the castle was carried on in stages. Soon, Malbork became the Teutonic Order's capital - the military, economic, religious and political center of the Knights.

The fortress covers the area of 21 acres and it includes several parts:
  • The High Castle - the monastery,


  • The Middle Castle - the Grand Master of the Order and the Grand Commander lived there,



  • and The Forecastle - workshops and the economic base supporting and supplying the Teutonic Order.

After the battle of Grunwald (1410), the castle was sieged by the Polish-Lithuanian army. The fortress remained undefeated, even though the Teutonic Knights lost the battle itself and the Great Master of the Order - Ulrich von Jungingen was killed on July 15, 1410.
The Knights lived in the Marienburg Fortress till 1457, then it became the residence of the Polish kings (till 1772).

Polish king Jan Kazimierz also lived in the castle

During the last period of WWII fights, the Malbork castle was awfully destroyed. Luckily the ruins were reconstructed - the castle was rebuilt. Actually, the works in the castle church were finished in 2016, some time before we visited the place.

Original 13th century wall - The Blessed Virgin Mary Church

The Malbork castle has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage.


Our Visit

We went to Malbork by train (from Gdynia - it was about one hour on the train). The public transportation system in Poland is well developed so you do not need a car to get to the castle.


The Malbork fortress is quite an amazing place, huge - so many interesting things to see there!
The personal electronic guide system led us through the castle yard, chambers, chapel, church and garden. There were very few tourists in the castle (due to the winter season) so we most often had it all for ourselves, not being bothered by anybody else.

We even met a Teutonic Knight there

We spent about four hours walking and watching and learning about the history of the place, admiring its architecture and the decorative details on the windows, columns, ceilings, walls, halls and medieval sculpture and paintings.




#1 Figure of Christ made in 1390-95

There were so many massive (and very, very, very old of course) doors, with sophistical medieval handles - some of them were quite difficult to open.


We were surprised to see that the Gothic construction of the castle included also floor heating system (installed in the chambers where gatherings were held), food delivery elevators (from the kitchen to the dining chambers) and personal toilets as well.

Castle kitchen

Medieval toilet

The old armor and weapons display was really great! And so was the amber collection as in Middle Ages, the Teutonic Knights controlled the amber market in the Baltic Sea area.


Looking at it all, it was so amazing to think that the knights, Polish kings and other noble men lived in the castle so long ago.


During the sightseeing, we had a lunch break in the castle restaurant. The food was great! It was good to sit and rest for a while too.


All in all, we had a really good time in Malbork. If you ever happen to be in the north of Poland, go and visit the Malbork castle - it is very much worth seeing.

Tips

  • If you to Malbork on train, you can walk to the castle or take a bus. The bust stop is not far from the railways station.
  • No matter when you visit the castle/what season it is - it is always rather cold there. I guess, the reason of it is the way the castle was constructed. Somehow, the spaces between the castle parts seem to create a kind of tunnels so it is always windy there. Anyway, be prepare and get some warm clothing when go to visit the castle.




Credits:
Picture #1
By Gregy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 pl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/pl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

2 comments :

  1. Fascinating post and beautiful photos! Thank you so much for sharing, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

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    1. Thank you Linda! Greetings and best wishes from Texas :-)

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