Majority of the most imposing and magnificent Medieval castles in Poland are the ones that were erected by the Teutonic Order. Their full name was the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem. It was a Catholic religious order founded as a military order about 1192 in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Teutonic knights were one of the three most influential crusaders orders. The other two included the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta; and the Templars (The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon). The Teutonic Order was invited to current Polish lands in 1226 by the Polish prince Konrad Mazowiecki and created their own country at the conquered lands. Nowadays, the biggest brick castle in Europe Malbork (the capital of the Teutonic Order Knights) is the most famous castle in Poland. It is also enlisted at the UNESCO World Heritage List. Two most interesting Medieval knights reconstruction events are also connected with the order. They are Malbork siege reconstruction and Battle of Grunwald. Grunwald Battle meant downfall of the order. Grunwald battle staging is a magnet for about 1500 actors and 100 000 spectators every year and Malbork siege for about 30 000 spectators.
The Teutonic Castles are the majority of Medieval architectonic attractions but not the only ones. Here are our favourite landmarks from that period:
It is impossible to characterise all Medieval castles in Poland in such a short, single article but here you will find some details about the most interesting ones:
Malbork is a picturesque town in the north of Poland about 60 km from Gdańsk by Nogat river banks. The main touristic magnet of Malbork is Teutonic Knights Castle of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem. The construction of the castle started in 1278 when the knights come to Malbork area. The city was called Marienberg then. This is why in 1997 it was enlisted on UNESCO World Heritage List. The interesting fact about the castle is that the construction of it started as early as 1278 and now the castle is the biggest brick construction of this kind in Europe. It was built for 40 years and during its construction 12 thousand rocks and 3.5 million hand-made bricks were used. When you plan visiting Malbork Castle you should have about 3 to 4 hours of free time to see all three parts of it with a guide and then stroll a little bit on your own.
The construction started in 1233 but between 16th up to 19th century some major construction works took place to change the original design. The buildings is the cathedral and castle group. One of the best well known element of the castle are unique latrines which may be slightly funny but the construction is really impressive. Right now apart from medieval form of the castle tourists can admire exhibitions about archaeology, ethnography, natural environment and also a collection of porcelain.
Frombork is famous not only for the castle but also because of cathedral and the person of Nicolaus Copernicus as this is the place where he worked and created his modern model of the outer space. The construction of both the castle and cathedral started in 1275. Right now the most precious is the cathedral hill where, apart from the cathedral and the castle, you can visit Nicolaus Copernicus Museum with many astronomical instruments, visit the planetarium and watch stained glass window exhibition. What is more, every year many tourists come to Frombork to experience the Organ Music Festival, as Frombork organs are believed to be one of the five the best organs in the country. After castle sightseeing, it is also nice to take the stroll to the Frombork harbour.
Lidzbark Warmiński castle is situated about 50 minutes ride from Olsztyn (about 50 km) and 1:30 h from Elbląg (95 km). It was built in 14th century and has an area of about 2700 m2. Currently, most of the chambers are available for tourists. Castle exhibitions present Gothic art, original interior decorations, furniture, documents about famous inhabitants of the castle, icons, 19th and 20th century Polish paintings. The youngest tourists will be happy to use historic costumes rental located at the castle grounds. Sightseeing of the castle is possible also with a guide. Gothic Lidzbark Warmiński castle is definitely worth visiting.
Reszel lays about 67 km from Olsztyn (about 1:10 h drive) and 30 km from Mrągowo (about 30 min drive). The Gothic castle was built at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. During its turbulent history it was besieged and conquered a few times by Polish and Teutonic Knight, in the 19th century it was also used as a prison. Only after the World War II it was thoroughly reconstructed. Currently, in the castle we will find museum with art gallery, hotel for 50 guests and restaurant that can host an event for 60 people. It is possible to visit a museum individually or with a guide. Visiting Mazury area it is worth to see this Medieval fortified castle.
Bobolice Castle is situated in Bobolice 44 km from Częstochowa, 64 km from Katowice and 89 km from Kraków. Original castle was built in the 14th century in so called Eagle’s Nests greater fortification system. The castle prosperity ended in 1657 when the stronghold was destroyed by Swedes. During Swedish wars in the 17th and 18th centuries the castle become a ruin. In the 19th century in Bobolice Castle a great treasure was discovered and afterwards treasure hunters completed process of castle destruction. Luckily, in the end of the 20th century the Lasecki’s family started the magnificent reconstruction of the monument. The castle was reopened in 2011. Currently, tourists can sightsee the castle with guides. While visiting the area, it is also worth to visit Mirów castle ruins which are only 1.2 km from Bobolice and the castle is currently being rebuilt.
The Castle was erected in 14th-15th century. The last inhabitants left the castle in 1810. It is located at the highest peak at Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska at 515.5 m above sea level. The castle has perfect location among limestone rocks which additionally protect the stronghold. Almost all parts of the building are available to tourists. There are exhibitions in an armory, a torture chamber and there is also a castle museum exhibition. In the courtyard there are market stalls with souvenirs and in the castle basements there is also Knight Restaurant. In the castle there are many events organized, such as concerts, knight tournaments and ghost spectacles. It is a place really worth visiting while being in central Poland.
Chęciny are located in St.Cross Mountains area. Chęciny town is located about 15 km from Kielce. The castle was built at the turning of 13th and 14th century still, from 17th century it is only a ruin. The castle ruins have irregular shape and predominate over surrounding town as they are situated at the top of the hill (360 m above sea level). From the castle we can admire magnificent views to the surrounding hills and from 20 m high tower, on sunny days, even summits of the Tatra Mountains can be seen. The castle doesn’t have any particularly interesting exhibition but nonetheless, the ruins are visited by numerous tourists especially during summer months. In the area there is also one more curiosity. The rock which is called świętokrzyski marble is mined in the castle vicinity so, such specimens of rock are common souvenirs from the Chęciny.
Summing up, Poland is incredibly interesting country for all history lovers. The ones who are interested in Medieval period, palaces and culture definitely won’t be disappointed. We heartily recommend taking tours around Poland and also taking part with Medieval reconstruction events either as spectators or partakers.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska