Photographer's Note

View to the Malbork Castle

The Castle in Malbork (Polish: Zamek w Malborku, German: Marienburg) is the largest castle in the world by area. It was built in Prussia by the Teutonic Knights, a German Roman Catholic religious order of crusaders, in a form of an Ordensburg fortress. The Order named it Marienburg (Mary's Castle). The town which grew around it was also named Marienburg.

The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress, and on its completion in 1406 was the world's largest brick Gothic castle. UNESCO designated the "Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork" and its Museum as the World Heritage Site in December 1997.

The history of Malbork begins in the Holy Land and by ‘Holy Land’ we mean Palestine, not the Krispy Kreme Donuts factory. Allow us to introduce you to the fabled Teutonic Knights, a rowdy band of monks with a lust for slayin’ and convertin’. After Palestine was lost to Islam, these zealots needed a new base of operations. But the Crusades were partly an excuse to get people like this out of Europe, so no one wanted them back! Finally, a Polish King offered them sanctuary in return for help against some pagan Lithuanians. The Knights were happy to help, but they were also happy to form their own state and control the amber trade. Also, they massacred the citizens of Gdansk in 1308, which they were supposed to be protecting. Whoops.

Obviously, these actions didn’t exactly sit well with the Polish King, who promptly allied himself with the Lithuanians who were being constantly raided by the Knights. In 1410, the massive battle of Grunwald saw the defeat of the Teutonic Knights, but the stumbling Polish King stalled out and was unable to rout them from Malbork, where they had been constructing and improving a massive castle since they first established themselves in the region over a hundred years prior. They called the castle Marienburg (St. Mary’s Stronghold) in case you hear that name, rather than Malbork.

The Teutonic Order continued to decline and in 1457 the mercenaries working for the Knights decided that it was a good idea to take the castle for themselves and sell it to the Polish King. Gotta get paid somehow, you know? Anyways, the Polish monarchy kept Malbork in decent shape for the next few centuries. Royal persons would rest their weary feet in its awesome rooms and vaulted hallways while travelling to and from Gdansk. Perhaps it was this leisurely attitude that led to the Partition of Poland in 1772, upon which the castle was controlled by the Prussian rulers.

Unfortunately, the Prussians turned the magnificent castle into a barracks and many of the out walls and towers were taken down, many windows were bricked up, and much of the splendor was lost. Of course this gradual decline and industrial transformation was preferred to the bombing, destruction, and looting done to the fortress by the Soviet army, and by the end of the Second World War, Malbork was basically a shadow of its former self.

Today, the castle has been renovated and reconstructed, as faithfully as was possible. In general, reconstruction work throughout Gdansk and its neighbors has been incredible and Malbork is no exception. In 1997, the castle became a World Heritage Site. Bristling with weapons displays, the medieval historian inside all of us will revel in the sheer amount of exhibits and displays. There are also a great many amber exhibits, as well as entire rooms devoted to the Teutonic way of life. Half the fun is actually just running through the hundreds of empty corridors, imagining that there’s a battle going on, but for the kids there are some cool wooden weapons available for purchase. (Source: Gdansk-life.Malbork Castle & wikipedia)

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Additional Photos by George Rumpler (Budapestman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 8900 W: 3 N: 20435] (82620)
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