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The Trail of Gothic Castles in Poland, Part I

Who, being a boy, did not dream of becoming a knight one day, riding a horse and fighting in great battles in full armor. And which girl dreamed of being a princess, dressing up in colorful robes and looking for her knight from the walls of a fortified castle? Today, as adults, we look at children’s dreams differently, but the autumn weekend is a great opportunity to go on the Gothic Castles Trail, which stretches through the Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian provinces. Today we will present you the Teutonic castles lying in the Pomeranian part of the trail. You can reach all these places with comfortable and modern cars from PANEK Rent a Car. 

Teutonic castle in Bytów 

Bytów, after being purchased by the Teutonic Knights, became the westernmost tip of the monastic state, so it was obvious that a magnificent stronghold must have been built here to guard the border. The first earthworks began in 1396, and 10 years later a castle made of stones and bricks was already rising over Bytów. The building is rectangular in shape, measuring 49 x 70 meters, from three of the four corners there are soaring, round towers and one tower with a rectangular cross-section, in which the powder magazine is located. The castle in Bytów was the most modern facility of this type in the Teutonic state, and this is evidenced by the fact that firearms were designed in the defensive walls, which was an absolute novelty in the fourteenth century. In the mid-fifteenth century, the castle fell into Polish hands and was administered by the Pomeranian dukes. However, this is only part of the history of this medieval fortress, which stands at the very beginning of the Gothic Castles Trail in the Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian provinces.

Teutonic castle in Człuchów 

The castle in Człuchów was one of the largest defensive fortresses built by knights of the Teutonic Order, and it was second only to the Grand Master’s Castle in Malbork. The Człuchów castle complex consisted of three wards and the High Castle, each of which, if necessary, could constitute an independent defensive circuit. Communication between parts of the castle was possible through drawbridges built over the moats filled with water. The size of the castle was dictated by the important strategic role it played in the monastic state. Człuchów was part of the fortifications protecting access to the borders. The construction of the castle began after 1312 and was probably completed around 1365. Hidden in the shadow of a mighty fortress, the settlement quickly developed as an important point of trade, and already in 1348 it received city rights. 

After a fire in 1793, the inhabitants of Człuchów were allowed to demolish a part of the castle, which was to be used as a donor of building materials for the reconstruction of the city. Today the great 46-meter high tower of the High Castle, from which you can see the panorama of Człuchów and the surrounding area, testifies to the former splendor of the stronghold. In the years 1826-1828, an Evangelical church was built on the foundations of the castle chapel, and the tower was turned into a belfry.

Teutonic Castle in Gniew 

The construction of the castle began in 1283 as one of the three strongholds located on the left bank of the Vistula River, next to the castle in Gdańsk and Człuchów. At the same time, as the most impressive building, it became the seat of Komtur Gniewski. In the mid-fifteenth century, as a result of numerous battles, the castle passed from the hands of the Teutonic Knights to Polish and vice versa, and finally in 1464 it was taken under the care of Gniew starosts. The medieval fortress remained in Polish hands until the first partition in 1772. In the second half of the 17th century, it belonged to Jan Sobieski, who even before he became the King of Poland he built a building next to the castle for his wife Maria Kazimiera. Today, Gniew Castle is owned by a private company, which is also the patron of the facility. Some of the rooms have been converted into a hotel, and some remain a museum. Numerous knight tournaments are organized in the castle, as well as themed festivals and artistic blacksmithing shows. It is worth staying here for a longer time to feel the history of this place on your own skin.

Teutonic castle in Malbork 

It is the largest and most impressive Teutonic castle not only in Poland, but also in the whole of Europe, and this is not the end of the list of the “best” when it comes to the Malbork fortress, because the seat of the Masters of the Teutonic Order (the proper one is the Order of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the German House in Jerusalem, is the largest Gothic castle built of brick in the world. The origins of the Malbork fortress date back to 1280, when the town of Marienburg was founded on the banks of the Nogat River and the construction of surrounding walls began. the flourishing of the castle and the city itself.Until 1457 Malbork remained in the hands of the Teutonic Knights, and for another 300 years it fell under the rule of Polish kings. gothic vaults, and the works of art collected here were taken away according to head of Germany. 

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the seat of the Masters of the Teutonic Order was reconstructed, but the main architect approached his task very creatively and instead of restoring the building to its original state, he let his imagination run wild and added a few new elements to the castle, destroying some of the old ones at the same time. Only after World War II, when the Malbork Castle actually became a ruin, the Castle Museum was established, thanks to which the former Teutonic fortress was restored to its glory. Today, it attracts thousands of tourists every year, and numerous knightly tournaments and stagings, such as the famous “Siege of Malbork”, prove that this largest brick castle in the world shines with the brightest today.

Teutonic castle in Sztum 

Located about 13 kilometers south of Malbork, Sztum became an armed settlement in the 14th century, which was to repel possible attacks by Polish-Lithuanian troops wanting to capture Malbork. However, Sztum soon became the residence of the Grand Master of the Order, Ulrich von Jungingen, who very much liked the stronghold as a summer base for hunting and a place to rest. In modern times, the stronghold was converted into a prison, but finally it came under the care of the Castle Museum in Malbork, which restored its splendor. Today, it houses a museum worth visiting, for example for the beautiful views of the Sztum Lake, and the unique, for the Middle Ages, layout of the castle, built on a pentagonal plan, not as the square art dictated.

Castle of the Pomezanian Chapter in Kwidzyn 

The present castle was probably built on the site of an earlier building, the so-called “Old Castle”, which was built by the Teutonic Knights in the castle called Kwedis. In the mid-fourteenth century, the current bishop’s castle was erected next to it, and a cathedral was built in the place of the old castle. Most of the construction works were completed by 1345, and in the 1880s, the magnificent Gdanisko was added to the castle, i.e. a tower located outside the defensive walls, connected to the castle by a covered corridor supported on high arcades. There is a folk legend related to this tower, which says that a certain influential canon, after discovering by the Bishop of Pomezania that he had a mistress, was to say bluntly as a sign of repentance that he would be … well, what the canon said and then used to do, ask the Kwidzyn castle guide. 

Throughout history, the building has been rebuilt, dismantled and rebuilt many times. In its heyday, it was a castle built on a rectangular plan with four towers. The only original element, practically intact, was the 59-meter-high tower located in the south-eastern part of the castle. In 1798, the castle was partially demolished by the Prussian authorities. As part of the work, the eastern wing adjacent to the cathedral and the representative southern wing, which housed the bishop’s refectory, were demolished. The material obtained during the demolition was used to build the court building in Kwidzyn, which was built around 1800 and is still standing here today.