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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Malbork Castle

The Castle in Malbork was built in Prussia by the Teutonic Order, a German Roman Catholic religious order as an Ordensburg. The Order named it Marienburg literally Mary Castle. The town which grew around it was also named Marienburg since 1945 it is known as Malbork.The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress, and is the world’s largest brick gothic castle. UNESCO listed the castle and its museum as World Heritage Sites in December 1997 as Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork. It is one of two World Heritage Sites in the region with origins in the Teutonic Order. The other is the Medieval Town of Torun, founded in 1231 as the site of the castle Thorn.

Malbork CastleThe castle was founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Order during their government of Prussia and is located on the Southeastern bank of the river Nogat. It was named Marienburg after the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the Order.

After the First Partition of Poland in 1772 the town became part of the Kingdom of Prussia province of West Prussia. At that time the rather neglected castle was used as poorhouse and barracks for the Prussian Army. In 1794 David Gilly, a Prussian architect and head of the Oberbaudepartement, was ordered to make a structural survey of the castle, to decide about its future use or even its complete demolition. Gilly's son, Friedrich Gilly, produced several engravings of the castle and its architecture, which he exhibited in Berlin and had published by Friedrich Frick from 1799 to 1803. These engravings led to a rediscovery of the castle and the history of the Teutonic Knights by the Prussian public.

Johann Dominicus Fiorillo published a recension of the engravings on 12 February 1803. Fiorillo said he hoped the engravings would encourage public interest, and Max von Schenkendorf critizised the defacement of the castle. Throughout the Napoleonic period the castle was used as a hospital and arsenal, but after Prussia was liberated again, it became a symbol of Prussian history and national consciousness. Reconstruction began after 1816 on the initiative of Theodor von Schon, Oberprasident of West Prussia, and lasted with varying intensity until World War II started.

With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in the early 1930s the Nazis began using the site for annual pilgramages by both the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. It was the Teutonic Castle at Marienburg, Malbork that served as the blue print for the Order Castles of the Third Reich.

Malbork CastleMalbork CastleWorld War II combat in 1945 destroyed more than half of the castle. At the conclusion of World War II, the castle, together with the surrounding city, became part of Poland. A fire in 1959 caused further damage. It has since been mostly rebuilt, with restoration ongoing since 1962. However, the main cathedral in the castle, fully restored just before the war, remains in ruins.

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