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History of the Castle

Years 1772 – 1945

Great reconstruction

Immediately after the withdrawal of the Napoleonic army from the city, the development of projects for the reconstruction of the facility began. In 1816, the Board for the Reconstruction of the Castle in Malbork (Schloßbauverwaltung Marienburg) was established. The works were initiated a year later with the partial reconstruction of the eastern façade of the Grand Masters Palace. During them, the 17th-century staircase was demolished and the chapel of St. Catherine. In the years 1819-50, the manager of the works was architect engineer August Gersdorff. Under its management, and with the help of such people as the well-known painter and architect Friedrich von Schinkel, historian Johannes Voigt and the Malbork pastor and enthusiast of the history of the Order Ludwig Haebler, the western part of the Middle Castle was reconstructed.

August Gersdorff Kral Friedrich SchinkelJohann Voigt


In the Palace, after removing the traces of the weaving workshops, new ceramic floors were laid, and the entrances were equipped with doors. New stained glass windows with scenes from the history of the Order have appeared in the Summer and Winter Refectories. In the Great Refectory, bricked-up eastern windows were removed and a new floor was laid. At the High Castle, the works were limited to relocating the roofs and building a new, neo-Gothic top of the main tower in 1842.

A move that aroused considerable controversy among art historians of the time was the construction in 1850 of a new gable above the Great Komturia in the Middle Castle. According to Gersdorff’s explanations, this decoration was to be the equivalent of the medieval gable of the Infirmary. The aforementioned criticism concerned not only the latest realization, but all works from the first half of the century. Already in the years 1849-50, Aleksander Ferdinand von Quast, from 1848 the first conservator of Prussian monuments, spoke unfavorably about it. He also took over the management of the works, which he held until around 1876. On his initiative, the collapsing western wall of the Great Refectory was secured with iron anchors and the gaps in the mosaic figure of Mary with the Child on the eastern façade of the castle church were supplemented. The latter task was undertaken by specialists from Venice. Five centuries earlier, artists from the same city put the first, original mosaic on the sculpture!

In the years 1868-69, the castle was examined by the secret building adviser Hermann Blankenstein. His work and the ceremonies that took place in Malbork in September 1872 on the occasion of the centenary of the return of West Prussia to the Kingdom of Prussia caused a new wave of interest among art historians in Germany in the former capital of the Order.

Conrad Emmanuel Steinbrecht (1849-1923)


In 1881, thanks to the active attitude of parliamentarians from East and West Prussia, the government decided to start the reconstruction of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the High Castle. A year later, the minister of religious denominations appointed a special commission whose task was to supervise the activities of the Castle Reconstruction Board. She unanimously entrusted the management of the works to the young and talented architect Konrad Emmanuel Steinbrecht (1849-1923). As it turned out, he was one of the most important figures in the modern history of the former capital of the great masters. He already had an archaeological practice in Greece (1877) and studies on the architecture of the Order’s state, as evidenced by the interesting monograph Thorn im Mittelalter (1881).

The methods of his work can be summarized in several points:
► accurate assessment of the current state of preservation
► archaeological research
► scientific trips
► research of archival sources
► restoration of old building techniques


The general rule he always followed was: no step in a spirit other than historical. A model example of such a procedure may be the method of rebuilding the vault of the Chapter House. Medieval details found in the rubble, after meticulous research and inventory, were flawlessly matched to their original places inside the hall.

The construction and conservation works carried out with a flourish and extraordinary conscientiousness were financed mainly from the budget of the Prussian state. The reconstruction of Malbork also aroused keen interest of the imperial family. Wilhelm II Hohenzollern visited her more than thirty times during his reign. Financial support also came from the Society for the Reconstruction and Beautification of Malbork. It was established on March 3, 1884 on the initiative of several high-ranking Prussian officials, including superpresidents of East and West Prussia and the mayor of Gdańsk. However, its origin dates back to 1872, when, on the occasion of the above-mentioned anniversary celebrations, the Committee for the Reconstruction of the High Castle was established.


View of the castle from 1885, soon after C. Steinbrecht began restoration work.

The Society was a social body enjoying the honorary patronage of the emperor. The first paragraph of its statute stated that it was established to collect funds for the dignified reconstruction of the Malbork Castle and to spend them in consultation with the state government represented by the Castle Reconstruction Board. The money came mainly from lotteries organized since 1886. The idea of ​​such financing of works was born as early as 1881 and was modeled on a lottery, thanks to which the expansion of the cathedral in Cologne was supported. The funds collected by the Society made it possible, among others, to conservation of old and creation of new wall paintings, purchases of militaria, archives and books, paintings and architectural details.




By 1900, the main works on the High Castle were completed. A number of the most important interiors were rebuilt here: the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the chapel of St. Anna, the Chapter House, the Kitchen, the Dining Room and the Convent Common Room. Works in the Middle Castle lasted until 1918 and resulted in the restoration of the eastern wing with the chapel of St. Bartholomew, the Great Commandery, the Infirmary and the west wing with the Great Refectory. The exception was the interiors of the Palace of the Grand Masters, which were left in the shape they acquired in the first half of the 19th century.

Bernhard Schmid (1872-1947)

At the end of June 1922, after forty years of work in Malbork, Konrad Steinbrecht retired. He was succeeded by the regency master builder Bernhard Schmid (1872-1947), who was also the conservator of monuments in West Prussia. Under his supervision, the castle gained its final shape.

In 1922, the reconstruction of the chapel of St. Catherine. Four years later, the walls and towers of Plauen’s bollwerk were reconstructed, and in 1931, work on the New Gate, also known as the Hindenburg Gate, was completed.

Rebuilt and equipped with a number of neo-Gothic furniture, the facility served as an interior museum in the interwar period, which gave visitors a picture of the functioning of the medieval monastery and brought closer the way of life of the monks. This was served by the arrangements of the interiors: the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Chapter House, chambers in the west wing of the High Castle, the convent kitchen, the Great Refectory, etc.

This way of treating the Gothic building met with general social approval. The inhabitants of Malbork and the surrounding area were proud of having on their territory the only fully reconstructed and lavishly equipped castle-monastery in Prussia. It attracted tourists not only from East Prussia, but also from the depths of Germany.

The most valuable collections included militaria, most of which were purchased in 1896 from the well-known East Prussian collector Theodor von Blell. Among them were exhibits from both the times of the Roman Empire and the late 19th century; Celtic and East Asian weapons. Another collection was numismatic items collected and handed over to the castle by the privy counsel Dr. Jaquet, in the number of nearly 10,000. Among numerous examples of Gothic sculpture, three sash altars can be mentioned: the Grudziądz polyptych from the years 1370-80, the so-called the Hamburg altar from 1499 and the altar from Tękity from 1504. The archive in Wieża Klesza stored a number of valuable documents, including Polish royal privileges for the city, guild files, etc. The archaeological collections, the core of which were historic architectural details from the areas of the former Teutonic State, were impressive. An interesting fact was a set of decorative, glazed roof tiles from the imperial palace in Beijing and several bricks from the Chinese wall. In one of the renovated buildings in Przedzamcze, the so-called Heimatmuseum – a type of regional chamber in which exhibits of the material culture of the inhabitants of Żuławy and the city of Malbork are gathered.

Third Reich

The political situation in Germany in the 1930s also affected the everyday life of the castle. On May 1, 1933, the flag of the Third Reich hung on the main tower. The facility also became a place of frequent celebrations with the participation of high-ranking Nazi party officials. In connection with similar events in 1934, a (fortunately unrealized) project was created to build a large amphitheater on the eastern side of the castle. On September 1, 1939, in the Great Refectory, Gauleiter Forster solemnly announced the return to Germany of the territories located on the left bank of the lower Vistula, and thus the restoration of the province of West Prussia within its former borders.

In this interior, in May 1940, the Banderia Prutenorum – a copy of the Teutonic banners taken from the Wawel Castle in Kraków – was greeted. During the years of World War II, the hall witnessed the vows of young people joining the Hitlerjugend and military oaths of soldiers leaving for the Eastern Front. In 1941, protection of the building against the effects of bombing raids began. among others in September 1944, a plaster cast of the Madonna was made from the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all stained glass windows from this temple were dismantled.


The town and the castle suffered greatly during the war in 1945. As a result of the heavy fighting of the Marienburg Battle Group with the units of the 2nd Russian Shock Army, nearly 80 percent of the buildings in the Old Town were destroyed. The eastern parts of the castle complex were also seriously damaged – the presbytery of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a mosaic figure of Mary with the Child, the main tower, the eastern wing of the Middle Castle, the buildings of the outer bailey. On March 8, retreating German troops blew up the bridges on the Nogat River.


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