Visiting hours today: 9:00 - 20:00


History of the Museum

History Of The Museum

On January 1, 1961, the newly established Castle Museum became the host of the facility, which is a central institution subordinated directly to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Warsaw. It is a multi-department museum of the historical and artistic type, the organization of which has been subordinated mainly to the issues of reconstruction, development and proper maintenance of the castle. Parallel to these works, the Museum also conducts research in the field of archeology of Lower Powiśle and the history of art and culture of Royal Prussia, mainly based on its collections. Collecting, securing, scientific elaboration and making works of old and contemporary art available are other important tasks of the Malbork institution.

At the beginning of its activity, the Museum had only those objects from the former castle collections that survived the war and the wave of looters after 1945. In addition to architectural details, there were a few exhibits of medieval sculpture and pseudo-Gothic furniture from the late 19th century. The museum exhibits include such valuable collections as, for example, the collection of medieval architectural elements, which is among the largest in Europe, a collection of artistic amber products, unique on a global scale, an impressive set of old weapons and armaments, or a rich collection of numismatics referring to the historic Malbork mints. The result of the Museum’s involvement in the European cultural life was the International Biennale of Contemporary Exlibris organized from the early 1960s, introducing the castle into the orbit of high-ranking world artistic creativity. Continued to this day, it has become the oldest cyclical artistic event in Poland and the most serious manifestation of this field of graphics in the world. The Museum is widely known thanks to numerous exhibitions of amber masterpieces abroad; in recent years they have been exhibited in leading museums in Germany, Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, the USA and Japan.

Today, the castle is the seat of a living museum center attracting over half a million tourists from all over the world each year. It is a meeting place for people of science and culture, journalists and politicians, it is an outdoor setting for newly created films and frequent concerts.


The Teutonic Era
On 14 September 1309, Grand Master Siegfried von Feuchtwangen adopted Malbork as his seat of power, turning the castle into the capital of one of the most powerful states in the southern Baltic area. It quickly became apparent that its form at the time was too modest for its new status,
leading to a more than forty-year effort to transform the convent house into a fortified High Castle. Ringed by deep moats and several defensive walls, the castle also included several more decorative interiors. These included St Mary’s church, with its new chancel, and the chapel of St Anne above it – which contained the tombs of all grand masters. The old castle boroughs area was also expanded, becoming the larger and more functional Middle Castle that served as lodgings for visiting Western European knights.
In addition to the residential facilities, this section also consisted of the Grand Refectory – the largest room in the castle, featuring a gorgeous palm vault, in addition to an Infirmary for senior and diseased members of the order and the Grand Masters’ Palace.
In the 14th and the first half of the 15th century, a third section of the castle was built – the Lower Castle, known since then as the Outer Ward. This is where what was known as the Karwan was located – a large armoury housing cannon and war wagons, as well as a granary overlooking the River Nogat and a number of utility buildings (a bell foundry, stables, brewery etc.). Adjacent to one of these was the chapel of St Lawrence, which was used by the staff. The castle was surrounded by moats and walls with numerous turrets, which merged with the fortifications of the city.

The Polish Era
Malbork was captured by Polish forces in June 1457, during the Thirteen Years’ War, and its management was entrusted to the royal governor and his margrave. Numerous illustrations drawn by court officials between the 16th and 18th centuries indicate that certain parts of the castle were repurposed at the time. The High Castle no longer served as a monastery, instead acting as a storage area containing pitch, salt, beer, hops and various other foodstuffs. The military personnel and officials lived in the Middle Castle, while the Outer Ward was adapted for the purposes of the army. The Karwan continued to house cannon, ammunition and other projectile weapons, and the towers were used to store gunpowder and saltpetre kegs.
The castle complex, built and modernised by the Teutons – gradually fell into disrepair during the Polish era. Maintaining such a massive defensive structure was extremely costly, and the state was chronically unable to afford it, as evidenced by the aforementioned illustrations. One of the first ones drawn (1565) mentions a scratch on the northern wall of the Grand Refectory. The defect eventually gave rise to an issue that has only been solved recently.
In the 17th century, several rooms of the Grand Masters’ Palace were repurposed to serve as royal apartments. Poland’s wars against Sweden resulted in no major damage to the castle. An accidental fire that consumed the roof of the High Castle in May 1644 proved much more destructive, and that is also when the mediaeval ambulatories were damaged. These were quickly rebuilt, but in a vastly different, Baroque style.
A new roof was built to cover the church in 1647, but the renovation of the remaining sections dragged on. This led to the collapse of the vaults in the south wing and the Chapterhouse in 1675. It was only in the mid-18th century, on the order of King Augustus II, that new roofs were built above the High Castle, and the main tower was given a tented roof with a lamp.
Between 1756 and 1767, an enormous Jesuit college was constructed between St Mary’s church and the Middle Castle, replacing the Clergy Tower. The order continued to maintain the castle church from 1652 to 1772. In the late 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries, the construction efforts that took place in the Middle Castle were limited to routine renovations of rooms in the north wing, which housed the governor and his officials, and the east wing, which housed the officials responsible for the Malbork economic area.

The Prussian Era
In September 1772, Malbork was captured by the Prussian army. The soldiers were stationed in the High Castle, in the Polish infantry regiment barracks established between 1737 and 1744. These proved too small, however, which is why they were soon extended. The ambulatories were bricked up, and a gate was built in the south wing (facing the city). A cavalry drilling area was created in the Middle Castle’s Grand Refectory: the main gate was made larger, the ceramic flooring was removed, and several windows were bricked up. In the 80s, the Grand Masters’ Palace served as a cotton spinnery and residential facilities for weavers and river skippers.
This marked the beginning of twenty years of construction and demolition works in the castle. These were continued despite the 1799 publication of an album consisting of depictions of Malbork created by three Friedrichs: Gilly (drawings) Frick (prints) and Rabe (plans), and containing a historical introduction by Konrad Levezow. The goal was to make the public aware of the beauty of the mediaeval castle, and to convince the relevant authorities to cease its demolition. In spite of this, a cabinet order was issued by King Frederick William III that same year, recommending that the High Castle be repurposed to serve as a military storage facility. The alteration that began in 1801 resulted in a complete overhaul of the castle exterior. All window apertures (except those in the church) were bricked up and replaced with new ones, placed in accordance with the new room layout. The façades were plastered, and the entire complex was given a new, low roof. All remnants of mediaeval vaults and external walls were demolished and replaced with wooden ceilings. Similar measures were applied to the Middle Castle, whose east wing was turned into a granary.
A major event that took place in this period was the 1803 publication of an article by Max von Schenkendorf, a student from Königsberg, in a Berlin newspaper. The author – a young Romantic poet – protested fiercely against the demolition of the mediaeval castle, and his article actually resulted in a new cabinet order being issued in the following year that forbade further demolition.

The Great Reconstruction
Immediately after the retreat of Napoleon’s forces, castle reconstruction designs began to developed. In 1816, the Malbork Castle Reconstruction Authority (Schloßbauverwaltung Marienburg) was established, and reconstruction work began a year later, starting with a partial alteration of the eastern façade of the Grand Masters’ Palace. During this time, a 17th-century staircase was demolished, and the chapel of St Catherine, originally adjacent to the palace, was reconstructed. Between 1819 and 1850, the reconstruction was overseen by August Gersdorff, an engineer and architect. Under his supervision and with the support of such individuals as the famous painter and architect Friedrich von Schinkel, historian Johannes Voigt and Malbork pastor and Teutonic history enthusiast Ludwig Haebler, the west section of the Middle Castle was reconstructed.
After removing all traces of the weaving workshops in the palace, new ceramic flooring was laid and doors were installed. The Summer and Winter Refectories gained new stained-glass windows depicting historical events involving the order. In the Grand Refectory, the bricked up windows in the eastern section were reopened, and new flooring was laid. In the case of the High Castle, the renovation efforts were limited to replacing the roofing and the construction of a new, Gothic Revival apex on the main tower in 1842.
A controversial move among art historians at the time was the 1850 construction of a new gable above the Grand Commandery in the Middle Castle. According to Gersdorff, the decoration was supposed to correspond to the mediaeval gable of the Infirmary. The criticisms related not only to this particular structure, but the entirety of the reconstruction effort starting from the first half of the century. The effort was criticised as early as 1849–50 by Alexander Ferdinand von Quast, who from 1848 was the first monument conservator in Prussia. He eventually took over as supervisor of the reconstruction, a position he held until 1876, and initiated such projects as the installation of metal anchor plates to secure the sinking western wall of the Grand Refectory, and the restoration of the damaged mosaic of the Mary with Baby Jesus sculpture adorning the eastern façade of the castle church. The latter project was carried out by experts from Venice. Interestingly, five centuries earlier, it was artists from the same city who applied the original mosaic decorations to the sculpture!
Between 1868 and 1869, the castle was examined by Privy Councillor for Construction, Hermann Blankenstein. His work, combined with the celebrations that took place in Malbork in September 1872 to mark the 100th anniversary of West Prussia being returned to the Kingdom of Prussia, reignited interest in the old order headquarters among art historians in other parts of Germany.
In 1881, convinced by the urging of MPs from West and East Prussia, the government decided to commence the reconstruction of St Mary’s church in the High Castle. A year later, the minister for religion appointed a special committee responsible for overseeing the activities of the Castle Reconstruction Authority. The committee unanimously entrusted the reconstruction to the young and talented architect Conrad Emmanuel Steinbrecht (1849–1923), who would prove to be one of the most important people in the modern history of the former order headquarters. Steinbrecht had previously worked on archaeological dig sites in Greece (1877), and had studied Teutonic architecture, his insights contained in the interesting monograph Thorn im Mittelalter (Toruń in the Middle Ages, 1881).
His methodology can be distilled into several steps:

► thorough assessment of the current condition
► archaeological research
► research trips
► archival source research
► reconstruction of old building techniques

The general rule he always followed was: nothing that was not in the spirit of history. An ideal example of this philosophy was the reconstruction of the Chapterhouse vault. Mediaeval decorations found among the debris, having been thoroughly examined and inventoried, were accurately placed back in their original locations in the room.
The large-scale, extremely fastidious reconstruction and conservation effort was primarily financed by the Prussian state. Malbork’s reconstruction was also of great interest to the emperor and his family, and Wilhelm II Hohenzollern visited the castle more than thirty times throughout his reign. Other sources of financial support included the Malbork Reconstruction and Beautification Association, established on 3 March 1884 by several high-ranking Prussian officials, including the governors of West and East Prussia and the mayor of Danzig. The history of the association begins in 1872, however, when the Committee for the Reconstruction of the High Castle was established as part of the aforementioned anniversary celebrations.
A public body, the association enjoyed the favour of the emperor himself, and the first paragraph of its charter stated that it had been established to collect funds for a worthy reconstruction of Malbork Castle, and to spend them in consultation with the central government, represented by the Castle Reconstruction Authority. The funds it collected came primarily from lotteries organised from 1886 onwards. This idea arose as early as 1881, and was inspired by the lottery that financed the extension of the Cologne cathedral. The funds collected by the association were spent on such projects as conserving the old and commissioning new wall paintings, and purchasing military memorabilia, archival materials, books, paintings and architectural elements.
By 1900, the bulk of the work focusing on the High Castle had been completed. The most important interiors had been reconstructed, including St Mary’s church, the chapel of St Anne, the Chapterhouse, the Kitchen, the Refectory and the Convent Hall. The Middle Castle continued to be renovated until 1918, resulting in the restoration of the east wing and the chapel of St Bartholomew, the Grand Commandery, the Infirmary, the west wing and the Grand Refectory. The exception was the interior of the Grand Masters’ Palace, which retained the layout imposed on it in the first half of the 19th century.
Konrad Steinbrecht retired in late June 1922, having spent forty years working in Malbork. His successor was District Construction Supervisor Bernhard Schmid (1872–1947), who was also a monument conservator in West Prussia. It was during his tenure that the castle became what it is today.
The chapel of St Catherine was rebuilt that same year, and four years later, the walls and turrets of Plauen’s Bulwark were reconstructed, followed by the 1931 completion of the restoration of the New Gate, also known as the Hindenburg Gate.
Reconstructed and furnished with a suite of Gothic Revival furniture, the castle served as an interior design museum in the interwar period, offering visitors a glimpse into how the monastery functioned in the Middle Ages and what life was like for members of the order. This was facilitated by the design of its individual interiors, including St Mary’s church, the Chapterhouse, the chambers in the west wing of the High Castle, the convent kitchen, the Grand Refectory, etc.
This repurposing of the Gothic castle was met with widespread approval. The people of Malbork and surrounding areas were proud to live near the only fully reconstructed and such well-equipped castle and monastery complex in Prussia, and many visitors from East Prussia and deep within Germany would come to see it.
The museum’s most valuable exhibits included military memorabilia, most of which had been purchased in 1896 from the famous East Prussian collector Theodor von Blell. These included artefacts dating back to the Roman Empire, as well as exhibits from the late 19th century, in addition to Celtic and East Asian weaponry. Also noteworthy was the numismatic collection, consisting of 10,000 coins gifted to the castle by Dr Jaquet, a royal advisor. Examples of the castle’s rich collection of Gothic sculptures included three winged retables: the Grudziądz polyptych from the 1370–80s, the Hamburg altar from 1499 and the Tękity altar from 1504. The Clergy Tower archive stored a number of precious documents, including Polish royal privileges granted to the city, guild records, etc. Also impressive were the archaeological exhibits, the most important of which were old architectural details dating back to the Teutonic State. Other interesting artefacts included a set of decorative glazed tiles from the imperial palace in Beijing, as well as several bricks from the Great Wall of China. One of the renovated Outer Ward buildings also housed what was referred to as the Heimatsmuseum – the Homeland Museum, a region-focused room containing material culture exhibits from the Vistula Fens area and the city of Malbork.

The Third Reich
The political situation in Germany in the thirties also impacted everyday life in the castle. On 1 May 1933, the flag of the Third Reich was hoisted above the main tower, and the castle would from now on frequently play host to celebrations involving high-ranking members of the Nazi Party. To accommodate similar events, a (luckily never implemented) project was proposed in 1934 to construct an enormous amphitheatre in the east section of the castle. On 1 September 1939, in the Grand Refectory, Gauleiter Albert Forster officially declared that all areas located on the west bank of the lower Vistula were once again part of Germany, and thus the province of West Prussia had been restored to its original form.
In that same room, an official greeting of the Banderia Prutenorum – copies of Teutonic banners taken from Wawel Castle – took place in May 1940. During World War II, the room was witness to oath ceremonies involving children joining Hitler Youth and soldiers being sent to the Eastern Front. In 1941, efforts to protect the castle against air raids were initiated. For example, in 1944, a gypsum cast of the Madonna adorning St Mary’s church was made, and all stained-glass windows decorating the church were removed.
The city and castle suffered severe damage in the fighting that took place in 1945. As a result of heavy clashes between the Marienburg Battle Group and units of the Russian 2nd Shock Army, nearly eighty percent of all Old Town buildings were destroyed. Also damaged was the eastern part of the castle complex – the chancel of St Mary’s church and the mosaic sculpture of Mary with Baby Jesus, the main tower, the east wing of the Middle Castle and the buildings of the Outer Ward. On 8 March, retreating German units detonated charges under the bridge on the River Nogat.

After World War II
Polish civilian administrators arrived in the city as early as April 1945, and the final organised relocation of the remaining Germans took place in 1957. The late 1940s saw the remnants of the Old Town buildings being gradually demolished.
For the first five years after the war, the ruined castle remained under the jurisdiction of the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw, which planned to establish a local branch here. For this purpose, preliminary securing and cleaning efforts were initiated, the area surrounding the castle was cleared of mines, and the gates were repaired. An important project at the time was the mending of a large damaged roof section, which served to protect the castle from inclement weather before the planned reconstruction. For the next ten years, the castle was managed by the Polish Tourism and Sightseeing Association. Further cleaning and renovation works were motivated by steadily increasing tourist traffic. These efforts lacked structure, however, and were conducted without proper documentation. In the late fifties, the Social Committee for Castle Reconstruction, formed by local cultural activists, initiated various projects aimed at protecting and restoring the castle. These projects gained noticeable momentum, and the committee also initiated efforts to establish a museum here.


Buy tickets online

Opening Hours

  • Mon - Sun:9:00 - 20:00
  • Tue - Sun:9:00 - 19:00


Tourist Information

  • +48 55 647 08 00
  • +48 55 647 09 02
  • +48 55 647 09 78