While traveling through Northern Poland, I had the opportunity to visit what was once the capital of the Teutonic Knights: Malbork Castle in Marienburg (modern day Malbork). It’s the word’s largest castle and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This impressive feat of architecture encloses over 50 acres of land by its walls and was designed as an economic and political center. With over 3000 men living and working here at its peak, it ran like a well-oiled machine.
The Teutonic Knights were founded during the crusades in 1190 in the city of Acre (in modern day Israel). Originally they were a tasked as a charitable organization, but were re-tasked as a military force in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Their primary goal was to take and defend the Holy Land from the invading Saracens, but were ultimately unsuccessful. They were eventually invited to Transylvania (Hungry) in 1211 and then into Prussia (modern day Northern Poland) in 1226. It was in Prussian lands that the order established a more-or-less independent state.
When the Knights were eventually forced to leave their headquarters in Venice, Grandmaster Siegfried von Feuchtwangen moved administrative functions to the city of Marienburg in 1309. While the Knights had already starting building a castle on this site, Feuchtwangen expanded the project to its more-or-less its current stature. From this point it remained the capital of the Knight’s affairs until it was eventually conquered by Poland in the middle of the next century.
The Knights reached the height of their power at the beginning of the fifteenth century. They might have continued expanding throughout Central and Eastern Europe had it not been for their defeat by Polish and Lithuanian forces at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. From this time they would gradually decline in power until their military association was dissolved in 1929. The Order still exists today, but only as a charitable organization under the authority of the Catholic Church.
So, after spending a night in Gdynia we drove down to Malbork where I was dropped off to tour the castle. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera charger with me so I didn’t both spending time getting super great quality shots here. Nonetheless, the architecture I was able to see was amazing:
Nothing says security like multiple gates:
There is a legend associated with the room above: in 1410 when Polish forces were besieging the castle, the Teutonic high command was in this room strategizing. Polish forces advanced towards the river opposite the castle and fired a cannon at the room aiming for the pillar in the middle. Had the cannon ball hit its mark, it would have caused the roof to collapse and probably would have killed the entire Teutonic high command. But, as it happened, the Poles missed and instead imbedded the cannon ball into the wall opposite. Needless to say, the Knights got the heck out of that room and proceeded to successfully defend the castle from siege. The cannon ball we see today is now a replica that was reconstructed from memory by one of the Knights present.
Well this post could have gone on for another few hundred pictures easily enough, but I think you get the idea. It’s definitely worth your time if you’re ever in the area. Unfortunately the tower was closed so I never got to see the view from the top (next time I guess).