Malbork, home of Teutonic Knights

Marienburg, the ‘Castle of Mary’ was built by Germany’s Teutonic Knights in the 1200s and became their seat of power when in 1309 the order moved from their established headquarters at Venice to threaten Poland.

Under successive Grand Masters, the Knights held power in Pomerania and along the Baltic Coast for 150 years and their stronghold epitomised their military prowess, their religious zeal and a fading chivalric code of honour.

Magnificent Malbork Castle

Magnificent Malbork Castle

Under successive Grand Masters, the Knights held power in Pomerania and along the Baltic Coast for 150 years and their stronghold epitomised their military prowess, their religious zeal and a fading chivalric code of honour.

As both the world’s largest Gothic building and biggest brick-built castle, the imposing fortress was never captured by force but was eventually given to the Polish King in 1466. Under the terms of the Treaty of Torun it became a royal residence for 300 years.

After a century of decline and neglect it was re-discovered by German romantic painters and poets and in the late 1800s architect Konrad Steinbrecht undertook an exhaustive 40 years of renovation and painstakingly restored the castle to its medieval splendour.

During WWII it was used as a prison for POWs and visited several times by Hitler, who is said to have adored it. Russia’s Red Army destroyed almost half of it in reprisal.

Renovation work began again after 1945 relying largely on Steinbrecht’s detailed photographs and drawings and celebrated a triumph this summer with the opening of the fully restored St Mary’s church.

We enjoyed a dream-like visit moving through its maze of ramparts, entrances, courtyards, cloisters, palace rooms and church, and marvelled at the ingenuity of medieval underfloor heating, dumb waiter systems and the highly practical organisation of a building used for both religious and military purposes.

It was the first day of September and after a day of heat and high blue skies the setting sun caused this jewel on the Nogat to glow richly and warmly as visiting swallows and swifts skittered across its many rooves, and a host of pigeons and doves took to their roosts in the rampart walls as they have done for centuries.

 

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