Malbork Castle, also known as Marienburg, was built in the 13th century by Tueton knights (one of the four largest lines of knights in the Middle Ages, also an important force in the Crusades). After the conquest of Prussia and in order to consolidate control over the area, these knights built Marienburg (meaning Mary’s castle). Not only is the largest in the world by land area, Marlbork is also the largest brick castle – built from about 30 million bricks.
The castle is located on the border of medieval Europe, until 1945 it belonged to Poland and was renamed Marlbork. The castle is located on the low bank of the Nogat River, about 40 km from the Baltic Sea. The river forms the natural boundary of the 52-acre (more than 21-hectare) estate, four times the size of the Queen of England’s Windsor castle. The other two sides of the castle are protected by swamps and the only side, facing south is the side for defense. The entire complex is surrounded by three closed defensive walls, fortified with dungeons and watchtowers. The castle became the largest fortress in the world during the Middle Ages.
This large castle is completed in stages. The first is the Upper Castle. It is the central fortress, started around 1276 and expanded significantly thereafter. In the Upper Castle there are monasteries, churches, chapels, dormitories, cafeteria, kitchen … Middle Castle is the administrative center, and accommodation for guests. Outer Castle includes offices, housing for employees …
The castle was built of brick because there was a lack of good quality building stone in the area. However, when building, Teuton knights were very interested in the structure of the house, so that it was strong enough for the castle to stand against invaders. Therefore, from 1.2m to 2.1m foot of the walls are all built of boulders taken from the river. Bricks are fired in place in the courtyard with mud from the river. An estimated 30 million bricks are used for this monumental construction.
The strategic location of the Malbork Castle on the river gave the Tueton knights a monopoly on trade as well as charging the river’s toll from passing ships. After about 150 years of rule, the castle changed hands when it was occupied by the Polish army in 1457. It became the royal residence of Polish kings for the next 300 years, twice as long as the Teuton rulers.
In 1772, the castle was abandoned, degraded and became a barracks for the Prussian army. In 1794, construction experts, led by Prussian architect David Gilly, visited the castle’s structure to consider whether to keep or demolish Malbork. A sketch of the castle a few years later was published by Gilly’s son for public access. These inscriptions prompted the public to re-learn the history of the castle and Teuton knights. After that, the work became a symbol of Prussian history and national consciousness. The restoration was started, lasting in stages over a hundred years.
During the Nazi period, the castle became a pilgrimage site. The Nazis frequently used the image of the Teuton Knights to propagate and grasp the ideology of the soldiers. During World War II, many fighting took place in the area and the castle was severely damaged by Allied shelling. Nearly half of the construction was destroyed. Over the next 70 years, the castle was gradually restored to its original shape, until 2016 was completed.
Currently, the castle operates as a museum and Malbork is considered the “blockbuster” attraction of the town of Malbork. The easiest way to get to the castle is from the port city of Gdansk by train. Depending on the type of train you choose, it takes from 28 to 55 minutes. Fares from 12 USD.
The most popular tour is that visitors freely explore the castle and carry a voice-over with headphones on behalf of the tour guide. The rental for this equipment is almost 3 USD. The tour of the castle lasts at least three hours. The tour price for a 6-hour castle tour starts from 180 USD.
Visitors to the castle can use GPS navigation to avoid getting lost. In the past, the castle was too large, so visitors could only visit half of the rooms and get lost. It also has a number of new exhibitions. The entrance ticket office has a locker for personal belongings, toilets … Visitors must buy tickets online, opening time all week, from 9am to 4pm. Admission fee from 12 USD. Currently the rooms in the castle are closed to stop welcoming guests, only the “Green Route” – the area around the castle.