The Malbork Castle Museum located near the town of Malbork, Poland, is a showcase of the centuries-old Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork and offers educational opportunities and tours for this medieval fortress of the 13th century. Visitors can take tours through the castles corridors, view presentations, special events, and historical reenactments, and attend history lessons onsite.
The Malbork Castle Museum was originally built as the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, built after the conquering of Old Prussia. It was built following 1274 and the Order’s suppression of the Great Prussian Uprising, and work continued until at least 1300, under Heinrich von Wilnowe, a commander in the Teutonic Order. It was originally named Marienburgafter the Order’s patron saint Mary. It was instrumental in the aftermath of the conquest of Danzig and Pomerania during the year 1308, and following papal persecution of the Knights Templar in 1309 when the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights moved his headquarters to the site of Marienberg.
Over time, the castle became the largest Gothic-style fortified building in Europe due to continuous expansion to house Knights. It occupied a site of 52 acres and at its peak housed over 3,000 knights and other brothers in arms. The outermost castle walls enclose a space four times that of Windsor Castle, with almost 45 acres designated as a World Heritage Site. During their occupation, the Teutonic Knights used the position of the castle on the river Nogat to collect tolls from passing ships and control the trade of Amber.
Across the centuries it changed ownership several times as Prussia then Poland was continually assailed by war. In 1456 the Order, facing issues paying their mercenaries throughout the Thirteen Years’ War, were ousted by the Kingdom of Poland and the site became the residence of the Polish kings, starting with King Casimir IV Jagiellon. In 1466 the castle and its town were placed under the purview of Royal Prussia, which was a province of Poland. It remained a royal residence until 1772 following the Partitions of Poland, but was occupied frequently by the Swedish during the Thirty Years’ War leading up to that.
After the First Partition of Poland, the castle was used as a barracks for the Prussian army as well as a poorhouse. Neglected and in disrepair, it was surveyed for potential demolition, but engravings of the castle presented in Berlin from 1799 to 1803 resulted in a “rediscovery” of the castle and its Teutonic history, resulting in a renewed public interest by the Prussian people. The castle finally became symbolic of Prussian history after the War of the Sixth Coalition, during which it had been used as an arsenal and hospital in the campaigns of the Napoleonic period. After this time, restoration began in stages until again, in World War II, when it was taken by another party.
The rise of Adolf Hitler to power in the 1930s resulted in the castle becoming a Nazi destination for Hitler Youth and Germany’s League of German Girls. Order Castles of the Third Reich built during Hitler’s reign were based on the castle Marienburg. Combat in the area in 1945 resulted in the destruction of more than half of the castle. After World War II, the castle and city were returned to the ownership of Poland. In 1959 fires caused significant further damage. Restoration efforts were renewed in 1962 and it was during this time that the Castle Museum was created.
Under the purview of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Warsaw, the Castle Museum hosted the restoration efforts and gathered a collection of relics left behind after looting from the many wars and occupations throughout Marienburg’s history. The museum was established to focus on historical preservation and scientific observation of artifacts, architecture, and the Teutonic Order as well as old and modern art. Renovations were completed in April 2016 and the museum’s collection and events have been continually expanded upon.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
The Castle Museum in Malbork features exhibits and collections from all eras of the castle’s history. From its construction by the Teutonic Knights, to the Polish era of the residence of Kings, to the Prussian era of occupation, the Great Reconstruction era and the occupation and near-destruction by the Third Reich, the exhibitions show a stratified portrait of the war-torn history of Polish heritage. The museum acquires exhibits for the branch of Kwidzyn and itself through the Museum Exhibits Procurement Commission, which evaluates submitted purchases and donations from galleries, auction houses, and private collectors on an individual basis.
· Collections: Collections in the museum represent the accumulation of a wide range of scientific, natural, historical, and social research and archaeology. Collections range from groupings of hundreds of smaller objects, such as the Amber, Ceramics, and Historic Documentation collections, to more modest numbers of more significant acquisitions such as the Paintings and Furniture collections. The Militaria presents a vast arrangement of the military history of Poland, Prussia, and the Third Reich’s occupation of the area, while collections such as the Numismatics Room offer viewing of over 4,500 coins from the Polish State. Over 20 collections are housed at the Castle Museum.
· The High Castle: The Castle Marienburg is an opportunity for visitors to explore and learn about one of the great castles of the 13th century, which served as a blueprint for many other castles in the region. In the High Castle, visitors will be able to view areas of residence and ceremony for occupants of higher wealth and social standing. The chambers of dignitaries, Gdanisko, the Convent Chamber, St. Anne’s Chapel, and the Chapter House are all contained here. Visitors will also be able to see the Witold Cell where special prisoners were kept.
· The Middle Castle: The Middle Castle was used for many functions throughout the property’s various occupations. Many exhibitions are showcased regularly in The Middle Castle, as well as permanent exhibits and restored buildings and cathedrals. In the Middle Castle can be found the Grand Refectory, Halebard Hall, and St. Bartholomew’s Chapel. In addition, visitors will be able to see exhibitions on the Medieval Heating System, cellars, kitchens, and cooks’ chambers, and the infirmary which sheltered aged knights during the Polish period.
· Grand Master’s Palace: Off the western wing of the Middle Castle was built the Grand Master’s Palace near the end of the 14th century. This is an architecturally rich and valuable construction, showcasing the Order at its height of wealth and power. Of all the constructions related to the Teutonic Knights, the Grand Master’s Palace is considered the most significant in representing their history and the breadth and scope of their occupation. The place of many audiences and meetings, its two massive refectories, many halls, and the Grand Masters’ Chapel will give guests plenty to look at.
· Library: Created in 1961 for the original Museum staff, the library is a large research institution with a vast collection available for the citizens of Malbork, and visiting students and scholars. It is located in the Karwan building, with a roomy reading area directly adjacent to the reference library, and contains a computer station with a microform and microfilm scanner. The catalogue of the Museum’s library is electronic as well as paper. The entrance is behind the museum office at the outer castle.
The Educational Department includes children and young adults in its scope, and offers many different sessions for young learners. For Kindergarteners, lessons are available that teach the construction and makeup of the castle. For Primary School students, lessons offer a look into everyday life at Malbork Castle, as well as scientific and archaeological studies, and a lesson on the importance of museums. Students in lower secondary school can learn higher abstract concepts about the castle such as an examination of biblical symbolism and an understanding of the gothic style. Many more educational opportunities exist in the form of reenactment games and youth groups.
Nightly tours in the castle are available for visitors through the Winter and beginning of Spring, with different languages available, with a sightseeing time of one and a half hours. In July, the Siege of Malbork reenactment festival retells the historical events that resulted in the occupation of the castle by king Jagiello hundreds of years ago. Other events are available at regular schedules, including the International Biennial Exhibition of Modern Exlibris, which gives visitors a look at the museum’s vast collection of modern bookplates.
Dining and Shopping
The Castle Museum in Malbork is host to dining and shopping opportunities for tourists and locals alike. The Castle Shop offers guests the opportunity to purchase books, souvenirs, and costumes to illustrate the ancient history of the area. The souvenir shop is available for guests looking to take something home with them, and in the Amber Shop visitors can purchase jewelry and trinkets made of this ancient material. Two restaurants are available: The Gothic Café & Restaurant and Piwniczka, a classic Polish restaurant.
More Poland Things to Do