Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork
This 13th-century fortified monastery belonging to the Teutonic Order was substantially enlarged and embellished after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master moved here from Venice. A particularly fine example of a medieval brick castle, it later fell into decay, but was meticulously restored in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the conservation techniques now accepted as standard were evolved here. Following severe damage in the Second World War it was once again restored, using the detailed documentation prepared by earlier conservators.
Statement of Significance
Malbork Castle is the most complete and elaborate example of the Gothic brick castle complex in the characteristic and unique style of the Teutonic Order, which evolved independently from the contemporary castles of western Europe and the Near East. The spectacular fortress represents the phenomenon of the monastic state in Prussia, founded in the 13th century and developed in the 14th century by the German communities of military monks who carried out crusades against the pagan Prussians on the south Baltic coast. The fortified monastery on the River Nogat represents the drama of Christianity in the late Middle Ages, stretched between extremes of sanctity and violence.
Over a span of two hundred years, since the 18th Century, the Malbork Castle has remained one of the major objects of European fascination with medieval history and its material remains. It also became a sign of the tendency to treat history and its monuments as instruments in the service of political ideologies.
From the 19th century onwards Malbork Castle has been the subject of restoration that contributed in an exceptional way to the development of research and conservation theory and practice. At the same time many forgotten medieval art and craft techniques were rediscovered. Extensive conservation works were carried out in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following the severe damage that it incurred in the final stage of World War II, the castle was restored once again.
Criterion (ii): Malbork Castle is an architectural work of unique character. Many of the methods used by its builders in handling technical and artistic problems greatly influenced not only subsequent castles of the Teutonic Order but also other Gothic buildings in a wide region of north-eastern Europe. The castle also provides perfect evidence of the evolution of modern philosophy and practice in the field of restoration and conservation. It is a historic monument to conservation itself, both in its social aspect and as a scientific and artistic discipline.
Criterion (iii): Malbork Castle, a symbol of power and cultural tradition, is the most important monument to the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, a unique phenomenon in the history of western civilization. The Castle is at the same time the major material manifestation of the Crusades in eastern Europe, the forced baptism of the Baltic peoples, and the colonization of their tribal territories, which played a vital role in the history of Europe.
Criterion (iv): Malbork Castle is an outstanding example of the castles of the Teutonic Order, which evolved in the frontiers of medieval western Europe. It is a unique, perfectly planned architectural creation, with no equivalent in Gothic architecture. It was built with the use of the rich repertoire of medieval constructional methods; these were applied on an exceptionally large scale and resulted in the magnificent seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.
Malbork Castle is generally accepted as an architectural work of unique character. Many of the methods used by its builders in handling technical and artistic problems (among them the design and construction of the vaulting and portals and the use of architectural sculpture) greatly influenced Gothic buildings in a wide region of north-eastern Europe. The castle was built so as to make use of the rich repertoire of medieval defensive architecture on an exceptionally large scale. At the same time it was an architecturally perfectly planned economic, military, and administrative centre not only of the extensive Teutonic Order with branches all over Europe but also of the mighty state that it founded here. It was also the social residence of the Master of the Order, who was also head of state. Taking all these functions into account, the castle must be recognized as a unique creation, with no equivalent in Gothic architecture.
The castle is situated on a peninsula on the right bank of the Nogat River. To the south lay the Polish state, which had accepted Christianity in the 10th century. The missions organized by Polish rulers to bring Christianity to the Prussians had little success, and led to the martyrdom of St Adalbert (997) and St Bruno (1009). In 1215 Pope Innocent III created a missionary bishopric to the Prussians. The Polish Prince Conrad called upon the Teutonic Order for assistance, granting them lands on the frontier of his territory. The order established itself there, but the resistance of the Prussians lasted for half a century
The castle at Malbork (or Marienburg, its German name), work on which began after 1270, was among the most important of the many castles built by the order. Its importance increased greatly after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master of the Order was moved there from Venice. The original Fore Castle was adapted as his residence and administrative headquarters, the impressive palace of the Grand Masters being built in its south-west comer. The Great Refectory was built to the north of the palace; the north side of the Middle Castle was closed with a wing housing the hospital and the residence of the commander, and the chapel in the High Castle was enlarged, with a mortuary chapel of the Grand Masters dedicated to St Anne beneath the new presbytery. After the first partition in 1772, Malbork Castle became part of the Kingdom of Prussia and was promptly modified to serve as a barracks. A number of artists and intellectuals had begun to take an interest in the castle, and as a result of their pressure it was designated a historic monument in 1804. It was partly destroyed at the end of the Second World War, and since 1947 there have been continuous campaigns for its reconstruction and restoration.
The High Castle was the convent of the Teutonic Order in the final phase. It is square in plan, with a central courtyard, and it contained living accommodation for the knights, with dormitories, refectories, kitchens and extensive storage facilities. Attached to it is the Conventual Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally on the first floor of the eastern wing and extended outside the perimeter of the High Castle with a new presbytery. The main portal, the Golden Gate, retains much of its original polychrome decoration.
The Middle Castle and the High Castle were surrounded by fortifications of walls, ramparts and moats. When Malbork became the seat of the Grand Master of the Order, a new three-sided enclosure was created, communicating with the High Castle by a drawbridge. The entrance gate to the High Castle and the Great Refectory are outstanding examples of High Gothic, with slender vaulting and large windows providing an atmosphere of soaring space and light. This section also houses the infirmary, the quarters of the military commander, and a guest wing used by visiting dignitaries of the order and secular knights.
When the 14th-century enlargement took place, a new Fore Castle was created, and the fortifications extended to defend the entire complex. A monumental gateway in the north wing of the Middle Castle gives access to the central open space of the Fore Castle. The buildings in this section were quarters for the servants of the order, workshops, armouries, cannon foundries, other services, a stable and wagon house complex, and a chapel dedicated to St Lawrence. The whole complex is surrounded by an intricate system of defensive works, including massive walls and bastions, wet and dry moats and ditches, earthen ramparts and ponds (which also served to supply the castle with water).Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Malbork (German Marienburg) is located in the south-west of a territory inhabited since prehistoric times by the Prussians (Pruzzi), a tribe of Baltic origin who were pagans until the 13th century. To the south lay the Polish state, which had accepted Christianity in the 10th century. The missions organized by Polish rulers to bring Christianity to the Prussians had little success, and led to the martyrdom of St Adalbert (997) and St Bruno (1009). An intensification of Polish missionary activities in the early 12th century led to devastating Prussian raids on Polish territory. In 1215 Pope Innocent IlI created a missionary bishopric to the Prussians, and two years later his successor Honorius lIl decreed that a Crusade to their lands would be equal to those to the Holy Land.
The Polish Prince Conrad called upon the Teutonic Order for assistance. granting them lands on the frontier of his territory. The Order established itself there in 1230, but the fierce resistance of the Prussians lasted for half a century. Taking advantage of his good relations with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and his influence in the Papal court, the Grand Master of the Order, Hermann von Salza, secured the grant of the entire conquered territory and independence from Polish ecclesiastical control.
The Teutonic Knights built many castles on the captured territories, with a dual political and religious function. The castle at Malbork, work on which began some time after 1270, was among the most important of these. Its importance increased greatly after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master of the Order was moved there from Venice. The original Fore Castle was adapted as his residence and administrative headquarters, the impressive palace of the Grand Masters being built in its south-west comer. The Great Refectory was built to the north of the palace, the north side of the Middle Castle was closed with a wing housing the hospital and the residence of the commander of the Castle, whilst the chapel in the High Castle was enlarged, with a mortuary chapel of the Grand Masters dedicated to St Anne beneath the new presbytery.
When the Treaty of Torun brought the wars between Poland and the Teutonic Order to an end in 1457, Malbork Castle passed to the Polish Crown, and remained in use, virtually unmodified from its medieval form, for three centuries, serving at different times as an administrative headquarters, a central arsenal, and a temporary royal residence. It suffered some damage during the successive Thirty Years' War (161%48), Polish-Swedish War (1655- 60), and Nordic War (1700-21), but its robust basic structure remained intact.
After the first partition of Poland between Austria. Prussia, and Russia in 1772, Malbork Castle became part of the Kingdom of Prussia and was promptly modified to serve as a barracks; a number of unsympathetic demolitions and additions took place in the period 1799-1803. However, a number of artists and intellectuals had begun to take an interest in the Castle, and as a result of their pressure it was designated as an historic monument in 1804. Conservation work began after 1815 and continued until 1939.
The Castle was partly destroyed at the end of World War II, after which it passed once again within the boundaries of the new Poland. Since 1947 there have been continuous campaigns for the reconstruction and restoration of the monument.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation