Malbork Castle, also known as Marienburg Castle, is a historic fortress located in Malbork in northern Poland. It is one of the most impressive and well-preserved medieval castles in Europe and is renowned for its stunning architecture and historical significance.
Malbork Castle was built by the Teutonic Knights, a medieval Christian military order in the 13th century. Initially, it was a conventual seat of the commander. From 1309 after the capital of the order was moved to Malbork, it was the seat of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order and the authorities of Teutonic Prussia until 1457.
Similar to numerous buildings in regions that experienced various political conflicts and wars, it had its periods of prosperity and decline. It suffered significant damage during World War II as a result of artillery fire from the Soviet army. Today, it has been meticulously restored and is open for tourists.
To thoroughly explore the castle and its impressive collections, one would probably require several days. This time I had one afternoon on the way further north. It was Monday, a day when museums in Poland are closed. I could only wander through the exterior sections of the Castle and a limited number of interiors open to visitors. In this post, I will share just a selection of the photos I made on that day only while on approach to the Castle. The place is incredibly photogenic, so in later posts I will show more of the High Castle, the Middle Castle and some other spots within the castle boudaries.
The view onto the Malbork Castle from Google Maps. The orange spots and arrows show from where I made pictures
To reach the castle from the city side, you need to approach a courtyard. In front of you, you’ll see an entrance through the walls. If you look to the left, you will spot the Upper Castle with a large image of St. Mary. The Teutonic Knights are also known as the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem. They have several patron saints, but the most prominent and significant one is St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The view onto the Upper Castle. In front you can see the Church of the Virgin Mary (with the picture of Virgin Mary on it).
The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Malbork Castle, along with its associated Chapel of St. Anne, is an integral part of the castle complex. They were built together with the Upper Castle. You cannot however reach the Chapel from the Church. The Chapel has two entrances, facing each other in the northern and southern walls. Beneath the chapel’s floor, there is a crypt that served as the final resting place for the highest-ranking members of the Teutonic Order, starting in 1341. The first to be interred here was the Grand Master Dietrich von Altenburg, and a total of eleven Grand Masters found their eternal repose in this crypt. Today, their legacy is commemorated by three original stone tomb slabs. A passageway through the chapel’s doors allows access to circumvent the High Castle. I will share this passage in another post along with the interior of the chapel.
To get to the Lower Castle, you’ll have to pass through two gates. The first is outer moat gate. The second one, reached by following the defensive walls and the moat, leads you to the Lower Castle.
Outer moat gateway
The moat was designed as a key component of the Castle’s defense. It surrounded the entire castle complex, creating a formidable barrier that impeded the advance of potential attackers. In the past the moat was filled with water. To access the castle, visitors and residents would cross the moat using a drawbridge, which could be raised or lowered as needed for defense. The gateways on the other side of the moat served as the primary entrances to the castle
The second gate to the Castle premises, seen from the outside
The gate seen from the Lower Castle premises
The Lower Castle, also known as the Lower Ward, is one of the three main sections of Malbork Castle. It was used for practical purposes, housing workshops, kitchens, storage areas, and other facilities necessary for the daily functioning of the castle. Here, the staff and servants of the Teutonic Knights performed tasks such as food preparation, maintenance, and storage. Within the Lower Castle, you can find St. Lawrence Church (Kościół św. Wawrzyńca), an integral part of the complex. This Gothic-style church was built during the castle’s construction and served as a place of worship for the knights and the castle’s inhabitants. It is named after St. Lawrence, the patron saint of cooks and the poor.
St. Lawrence Church as you approach it from the gate you see on the upper photo and from the back
I refrained from photographing the entrance to the Middle Castle to respect the privacy of people standing there. This entrance is situated behind a wooden building that spans across the moat, which you can see on the right side in the top and bottom pictures below showing the exterior of the Middle Castle seen from the Lower Castle. The entrance is a part of the Gate Tower.
The views onto the Castle from the Lower Castle. Making the photos I had St. Lawrence Church behind my back
On tle lower photo above you can see the West wing of the Middle Castle that accomodates the Great Refectory. It was a significant dining hall where the Teutonic Knights and residents of the castle gathered for communal meals and various gatherings. You cannot enter it on Monday. Still below it, in the underground you can see a small room that served a furnace that was used to heat the underfloor heating system. A furnace heated the air, which then circulated through channels beneath the floors, warming the rooms above, including the Great Refectary and the Grand Master’s Palace located behind it.
Here the view from Nugat river onto the Lower Castle premises. On the right you can see the St. Lawrence Church, the Castle is further to the right.