Castles and Palaces
Every Castle

Malbork Castle (Marienburg Castle)

Malbork Castle (formerly known as Marienburg Castle) is a castle of the Teutonic Knights in northern Poland.

The red-brick fortress of Malbork, the headquarters of the Order of Teutonic Knights from 1309 to 1457, is situated 48 km south-east of Gdańsk, on the right bank of the Nogat River.

It is one of the most important architectural complexes in northern Europe.

Malbork Castle History

The Teutonic Knights began building the castle in 1274 on the western border of their territories, midway between Gdańsk and Elbląg, to complete the strategic network of castles along the Vistula River and the Baltic coast, from Toruń to Kaliningrad. The choice of Malbork reflects the importance that the Order attached to the acquisition of Pomerelia, the land lying on the west bank of the Lower Vistula, as the first step in an attempt to link up its eastern territories with those in the Holy Roman Empire.

The fortress, which was built in several stages, takes the form of three architectural groupings, each separated by a moat and protected by its own fortifications. The Upper Castle is the nucleus of the complex. To its north and set somewhat lower is the Middle Castle, consisting of three wings with the Grand Master’s Palace projecting from it to the west . The Lower Castle, incorporating a series of independent outbuildings, occupies a larger area to the north of the Middle Castle. The three castles are enclosed with the town in a common system of fortifications.

Building began with the Upper Castle, which has four wings round an inner courtyard with a surrounding curtain wall. The chapel and the chapter house on the first floor of the north wing were probably completed in 1280, when the Knights and citizens of neighbouring Zantyr moved to Malbork.

The east and west wings were added between 1280 and 1285, with the south wing closing the quadrangle between 1285 and 1300. The courtyard was reached by a passageway leading from a wide portal set into a great niche. It has two storeys of arcades, thoroughly renewed in the 19th century, and a well.

The ground-floor of the castle has large vaulted chambers and a kitchen in the west wing. The commander’s lodgings were above the kitchen, and the brothers were accommodated in a large dormitory on the first floor of the east wing.

The transfer of the Grand Master’s headquarters from Venice to Malbork in 1309 initiated new projects. The chapter house was enlarged to incorporate the chapel gallery, and a residential west range, of which only the Great Refectory survives, was begun in the Middle Castle.

Under Grand Master Luther of Brunswick, the chapel was extended eastwards beyond the walls and reconsecrated in 1344. A lower chapel was constructed beneath the extension as a mausoleum for the Grand Masters, dedicated to St Anne. This work is characterized by a profusion of sculptural decoration following the style of the original chapel portal sculpture of 1280.

A Crucifixion group and a series of stucco apostles and female saints were inserted into the interior wall arcading of the upper chapel, while the tympana of the two St Anne’s chapel porches were decorated by an elaborate programme based on the Life of the Virgin and the Finding of the True Cross.

Around 1378 Venetian masters working in Prague were commissioned to decorate with mosaic the giant stucco Virgin (destr. 1945), on the outside of the east window of the upper chapel.

Major building activity ended at Malbork with the construction of the Grand Master’s Palace from 1383 to 1399. The core of the palace was built on to the Great Refectory, with its entrance and chapel on the east side; the audience chambers were built into a block  projecting beyond the perimeter of the castle and dominating the view from the river.

The exterior is marked by deep brick buttresses that run the full height of the building (27 m). These are bridged together at eaves level to form a defensive crenellated gallery.

After the war of 1454–66, the castle came into Polish hands and remained a royal residence until 1772, when it fell into disrepair. It was heavily restored by Schinkel (1817–42) and Steinbrecht (1882–1921). The Upper Castle was seriously damaged in World War II.

Malbork Castle Visitor info

The Malbork Castle which is the biggest castle in the world by area currently hosts a museum. The castle is easily reached when one gets to Malbork, there are signs everywhere pointing to the castle.

Guided tours are available in most international languages, and night tours are also available. The admission fee varies greatly, but for an adult person it is less than 10 EUR.

For tickets & info you can write an email at the official office or call at +48 55 647 09 78.


Malbork Castle Map&Location

View Larger Map

 Malbork Castle Photos

Photos by Jeff Huffman - Click to the photos to enlarge

Malbork Castle courtyard

Malbork Castle
Malbork Castle walls

Malbork Castle detail

Malbork Castle detail

Malbork Castle interior detail

Malbork Castle wall paint

Malbork Castle stairs