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Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

The castle in Malbork

Country: Poland
Century: 1300 - The 14th Century
Art Period:

The Late Roman Architecture and the Early Gothic Architecture

Artist / Artwork Description:

The Castle of the Cross Knights in Malbork
The Palace of the Grand Master 1383 - 1399

Synthetic Chronology:

The Castle in Malbork was started to be built in 1276. After about 30 years there have raised a building in a shape of square with a patio in the middle- it was called the High Castle. A slow further building progress directed southwards was lasting about 90 years. In that time there appeared the Medium Castle and the Castle- Front called the Low Castle. The most magnificent part of the Castle situated within the Medium Castle was the Palace of the Grand Master. Its building record finished in 1399.
The Castle in Malbork currently is by and large just a reconstruction. The original (coming directly from the Middle Ages) elements are the Golden Portal in the Castle Chapel, two portals in the St. Ann’s Chapel (below the Castle Chapel) and the described longer Palace of the Grand Master.
The Castle is a building keeping under construction for over 100 years in the turn of the XIII and XIV century.

The Context:

Since the XII century in Akka (the current territory of the State of Israel)) a German hospital commonwealth patronised by St. Mary Virgin was taking care of the newcomers from Europe- the Cross Knights. That place also became the first Main House of the Cross Knights’ Order. The full name was the Jerusalem House of the St. Madonna Virgin Hospitality Givers of the German House. The Cross Knights. The Cross Knights as a knights’ order was firstly fighting against Muslims (in the Holly Land), the aim being taking back the Christ’s Grave, next in Europe they were fighting against other enemies of Christianity. In the XIII century and throughout the two next centuries they were fighting against Prussia, multi tribal folk of the Baltic origin, living in the Eastern North of Europe.
The Cross Knights’ Order had always big territorial aspirations. Everywhere they wanted to set up their own state. The land of Chelmno given to the Order in 1226 by the Polish Prince Konrad Mazowiecki caused appearing Order’s houses- castles with St Mary’s chapels, and soon the Cross Knights’ State had a big net of the castles. The castle chosen for the residential place of the Grand Master in Malbork was developing apparently quickly. That place served as a place of the Order’s prayers, putting forward the projects corresponding to the war preparations against the Prussian, and deciding about the cores of market development within the Order’s State. However, additionally Malbork was beginning to express itself as a proud residence of the Grand Master. That purpose was fulfilled by the especially erected palace, an attractive bricked segment, situated in the western part of the Medium Castle’s walls.
It can be added for the needs of historic and strategic interpretation, that the power of the Cross Knight’s State was blooming at the cost of the Polish State, because the Order’s expansion was connected with the border struggles against the Polish troops.
Malbork was the most magnificent capital of the whole Order and its State ever. It was also the last capital of that State. It was never conquered by any army, what evidences its military power. Poland took it over in 1457 by the way of political and economic negotiations. In the years followed the castle was rebuilt a few times.


In the domain of the gothic architecture, the leading places in the XIV century focused on the buildings based on the rib- cross constructions, there also were established the secular enclosures possessing more and more decorative sorts of firmaments (the crystal , palm, net firmaments), portals, pillars, joiners. The stony sculpture fulfilled polychromic wooden sculpture, standing alone, for the altar destination. In the Pomerania and in the region of the Downer Vistula there became common a bricked construction, contrary to the basilica- orientated one. There kept in bloom both wall and miniature painting. Quickly developing cities in the Pomerania were Gdansk, Torun, Elblag, Chelmno, Kwidzyn. Those cities cooperated with each other. The masters outside the cities were invited towards the big tasks. There increased the grade of the local workshops. There appeared the names of famous masters.
Economic and political Cross Knight’s presence in the Pomerania had a fundamental importance for the architecture of those cities. The Order’s State was a body from the outside, and by means of its contacts with the Western Europe it functioned as a kind of an enclave, different from the local tradition. It remained its heritage evidenced in the picture of the cities founded ( Torun and others).
The building material is brick. Stone services to the treatment of architectural detail. That stone is sandstone, sometimes granite, and even an artificial stone.

National Comparative:

The Castle in Malbork is much more spectacular than any other castle in the Pomerania and in the Former State of the Cross Knights’ Order. Most of them makes up a tetragon with a patio, usually surrounded by an additional protective wall, a moat and an entrance gate. A permanent element is a chapel or a bigger church dedicated to St. Mary Virgin. Such castles are in Nidzica, Gniew and Radzyn Chelminski. At the same time, the Castle in Malbork had even 3 tetragons linked together. One of them was for the accommodation of the Capitule; those were the flats and the church of the order friars. Another tetragon was for visitors: arriving knights and friars. The third tetragon in a trapezoid shape had a servicing destination- the place of living for the knights and servants, gardens’ spaces, stables, etc.
The greatness of the architecture of the Palace of the Grand Master was however exceptional in the whole Order’s State. It could be comparable with a gothic courtly architecture. The other castles existing in the present Poland of other origin( Royal, of Princes, etc.) are considerably different. Most often, they were built on the mountains, and its building component was stone (e.g. the Castle in Szydlowiec, close to Kielce), besides more of them resulting from the later re-constructing(e.g. the gothic Wawel) or wars has not remained in its primary form or at all till now. However, it is possible to refer to the influence of the building assumptions within the Cross Knights’ castles on other – lowlands situated Polish castles- e.g. the Bishop Castle in Lidzbark Warminski , the castles in Kolo, Kruszwica or Boleslawiec.

Artistic Analysis:

The Palace was founded in the period of the years:1383- 1399. It can be distinguished a great, bricked chunk, seen from a distance, also from the Nogat’s side.
If we expect a heavy construction, we may be disappointed. We do not find here any protective features, but the courtly- representative ones. There were adjusted here big windows in a shape of a rectangle. On the external face of the wall there go vertical banks, which at a certain stage are replaced by a pair of the little columns, the result being much light comes inside. The chunk gets more rhythmical and its structure is more various. The building’s posture gets more attractiveness thanks to bay- windows on the cantilevers. From inside, both the lighted corridor (of the so- called High Entrance), and the two most important rooms: The Winter Refectory- the lower room and the Summer Refectory- the bigger one, carry the traces of the courtly sort of architecture. The both rooms have the beautiful star- palm vault supported by one column in the middle. In the rectangular window holes, a visitor may feel something special and noble.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

The scale of exceptionality of the Castle In Malbork was demonstrating, as it was the only capital of the whole rich Cross Knights’ State In the XIV and XV centuries (starting from 1309).
Correspondingly, the magnificence of the Palace of the Grand Master is nowhere else observable. Comparisons and looking for the roots may result In Winding some common perspective with courtly building of non- Cross Knight’s origin. It seems to be comparable with the Popes’ residence in Avignon.
The space (the whole space of the foundation was 18 ha. of surface) and attractiveness apart from the functionality of the complex are very distinctive. An attention is drawn by the Palace of the Grand Master, which evidences big ambitions of the Governor. The features of modernity are high and light (thanks to spacious windows) beautifully composed accommodations supported on the narrow granite columns, refectories both in the High Castle, Medium castle (The Knight Chamber), and in the Palace, as well. Those are the next elements distinguishing the Grand Master’s seat from other European permanent residences.
The presumed designer of the Palace is Nicolas Fallenstein.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

The Castle was under construction for over 100 years. At first it was planned to have one tetragon with a patio. In keeping with the decision about moving the Capital from Venice to the Nogat’s (the river by Malbork) region in 1309, it was resolved to lead its further extension, beginning from leveling up the floor. Then, it was added the second castle for representative reasons (including the flats for the visitors), and the third one- the lowest. The whole object just in the XV century was surrounded by the additional protective walls and the land shaft.


1. The Castle in Malbork is the most exceptional protective castle in Europe. It occupies 18 ha. Its religious and military purposes find a logical reflection in its architecture. The castle is a witness of the shocking and full of tension history of the Cross Knights’ Order.
2. The presence of such a representative segment as the Palace of the Grand Master in such a protective complex makes a big surprise to visitors. The innovatory object of the courtly sort and Western origin is an extraordinary phenomenon deserving a deeper reflection. Our attention is drawn by the beauty of the light insides of the two Refectories (Winter and Summer) and the adhering entrance.


1.Author: Janusz Keblowski, Title:” Polska sztuka gotycka” „”The Polish Gothic Art.”), Publication: „Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmow (The Artistic and Film Publishers), Warsaw, 1983
2. Author: A collective work, Title:”100 cudów architektury w Polsce” (“100 Wonders of architecture in Poland”)
3. Author: Janusz Keblowski, Title: ”Dzieje sztuki polskiej”
(“The History of the Polish Art”)

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 38_malbork01.jpg

Description of the material:

The source introduces precise information as regards the enumerated castles in Poland within the functional, readable map and helps visitors with referred scopes of data.

Contextualisation Of the source:

The context is a kind of enlisting the castles' splendour in Poland- indicating various cultural and architectural connotations.

Interpretation of the source:

The source can be understood as a platform of recognizing castles in Poland with their further regional topographies and historical backgrounds.

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Date: 2009.09.07

Posted by Barbara Stępień

Message: This is an interesting video of the castle as it is now.

Michelangelo - Copyright 2008 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

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