Malbork is a town in northern Poland and the capital of Malbork County. The town was founded in the 13th century by the Knights of the Teutonic Order, and is famous for the medieval Malbork Castle which built in the 13th Century as the Teutonic Order’s headquarters.
The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork is the largest brick castle in the world measured by land area and the Castle and the Castle Museum has been designated a World Heritage Site in December 1997 by UNESCO.
Malbork Castle is also one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments as designated on 16 September 1994. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
Malbork Castle was originally constructed by the Teutonic Knights, a German Catholic religious order of crusaders. The Order named it Marienburg in honour of Mary, mother of Jesus. The castle was under German rule for over 170 years until 1945.
The castle was expanded several times to accommodate the growing number of Knights. It transformed into the largest fortified Gothic building in Europe, on around a 52-acre site. The castle is divided into subdivisions and there are many layers of defensive walls around the castle.
Malbork Castle consists of three separate castles – the Lower Castle, Middle Castle and the High Castle. These castles are separated by dry moats and towers. The castle once housed around 3,000 knights and monks. The location of the Malbork castle beside the Nogat river allowed easy access to boats and ships arriving from the Vistula River or the Baltic Sea.
At the end of the WWII, the city of Malbork and the Malbork Castle became part of Poland again. Most part of the present castle has been reconstructed. Restoration has been ongoing since 1962 after a fire in 1959 caused significant damage. The latest restoration, which was completed in 2016, was done on the main church in the castle, The Blessed Virgin Mary Church.
The Malbork Castle Museum was founded in 1961 and it’s famous Amber exhibition was opened in 1965. Malbork Castle is still considered as the largest brick building in Europe.
Now let’s go on a tour of Malbork castle in this short video.
Hope you enjoyed the video. Now let’s take a walk within the Medieval Castle.
As you enter the Castle gate just above there is a sculpture of Mary and Jesus. As you walk in further you can see all the fortifications around you. Once inside do look around and see the handmade red bricks used to build most of the castle. The darker bricks are the original ones while the lighter ones are from the restorations after World War II.
The middle castle is where the knights and monks lived. On the left is the wing where visiting monks stayed. This now houses an impressive Amber collection and on the upstairs is the armoury display.
On the right side of the middle castle is the Grand Refectory and Grand Master’s Palace. Across the main courtyard, there is a small courtyard and through a passage you can go down the steps to the famous Boiler room.
The Knights had a very sophisticated way of keeping their chambers warm. The furnace in the boiler room has a place to hold hot rocks above it. The heat from the rocks spread through the vents to the room above but helped trap the smoke from entering the room above. There are 11 such boiler rooms throughout the castle. Once you are inside one of these rooms, don’t forget to look out for the vents on the floor.
Inside the Grand Master’s Palace, you’ll find the Grand Refectory, used for celebrations or hosting feasts. As you look up and admire the classic palm vaulting of the ceiling and the frescos, don’t forget to check out the vents on the floor!
As you continue walking through the private rooms of the Grand Master with beautiful frescos, do take note of the private toilet with a view of the Nogat river. Continue your visit on to the dining rooms, the Winter refectory, which has less windows and the Summer Refectory with huge stained glass windows
After this walkout to the courtyard and see some of the Grand Masters’ statues. From here you have to walk towards the High Castle by crossing the drawbridge.
When you cross the drawbridge, do look out for the huge fortifications and dry moats and the collection of stone catapult balls, which were actually fired at the castle. There are even some dents visible on the walls.
Inside the High Castle, which is the oldest part of the castle, the courtyard has a well. On the top of the well is a pelican sculpture, which was supposed to be used as a symbol of self-sacrifice.
On the ground floor of the High Castle, you’ll find the Castle Kitchen which includes a beautiful exhibit of how the kitchen might have looked during the times of the knights and monks. There is also a medieval form of dumbwaiter leading up to the Refectory above.
Next you’ll visit the Chapter Room where monks gathered and which was also used as a meeting room for the knights. The big chair in this room was for the Grand Master. The ceilings are covered with elegant frescoes. There are also rooms alongside used as part of the Treasury.
As you walk out and ahead, look up to the devil on the wall. The tower you are about to enter is called the Dansker Tower (aka the Toilet Tower). The big room on this tower has four toilet stalls and the waste dropped straight to the moat below.
After you leave the toilet tower, visit the Church exhibition where exquisite relics are on display. Do take a note of the three panel altarpiece depicting the coronation of Mary and observe Mary’s face and the the folds on the robes. It’s so beautiful.
Then as you walk towards the Golden Gate look the doorway and the elaborate carvings of the five virgins on each side. The ones on the left are the wise ones and the foolish ones on the right.
The top floor consists of the monk’s common room and a very long room which was the refectory. This room has a hole on the wall, from where the food from the kitchen below came upstairs (remember the dumbwaiter you saw in the kitchen).
As you walk out of the castle, look towards the outside wall of the church to see the statue of Mary. Malbork Castle is a beautiful place to visit. I considered it to be one of the highlights of my Poland trip.
- Malbork Castle is a great place to visit if you have half a day on the way from Gdansk to Torun or Warsaw.
- Malbork is on the train line between Gdansk and Warsaw
- There is guided tour available in the castle and worth it to know about the history of the castle.
- The Gothic Cafe, by Chef Bogdan, is a place for great Polish food
- The view of the castle at sunset from the river side is spectacular
- Summer months are quite hot, so appropriate clothing and good walking shoes are essential.
Looking forward to my next travel hopefully sometime later this year!!
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