Picture taken in Malbork after Wikimania 2010 conference. Panorama of Malbork Castle.

Malbork Castle: Searching for Treasure and Legends in the Shadows of the Teutonic Order

(Read the article on one page)

Today, Malbork Castle is a magnificent fortress located in northern Poland, but in the past it was the capital of the Teutonic Order. It was built in the 13th century when the Grand Master decided to move from Venice to Prussia. Nowadays, it is one of the biggest medieval Gothic brick castles in the world, but this grand construction still holds many secrets.

Malbork castle is located near the river of Nogat, 25 miles (40.23 km) from the Baltic Sea. The castle was built in stages between 1276 and 1406. It was a complete construction - roofed, floored, and windowed, until 1945, when the Russian army damaged it. The castle covers 52 acres and is protected by the river and strong walls. Over the centuries it has stood as the symbol of the city of Malbork (earlier Marienburg).

An Exotic Castle from the Holy Land?

Although the castle was built in Gothic medieval style, there may be different origins for one of its walls. According to legend, when the first knights of the Teutonic Order (whose full name was The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem) left the Holy Land, they brought some bricks with them from the house where Jesus ate the last supper - Cenacle. It’s also believed that it was the first dwelling of the Order. Many researchers have tried to find confirmation for this story, but so far no concrete evidence has been found.

The castle was a unique place in this part of the world due to its exotic inhabitants. The knights were famous for their love of animals, and they liked to import many unusual species. Several knights had dogs, cats, and birds. The castle was full of different parrots and other exotic animals like monkeys and a giraffe. During the reign of the grand master Conrad von Jungingen, a part of the castle's wall paintings was actually damaged by creative monkeys.

Konrad von Jungingen.

Konrad von Jungingen. ( CC-BY-SA 4.0 )

Grand master Karl von Trier, who served from 1311 to 1324, kindly asked his knights to not take their dogs, cats, and other animals to the church and the chapel because they disturbed the ceremonies. However, the knights didn't seem to care much about his request.

The Knights Leave the Castle

The castle was impressive during the medieval period and its history only grew with the following years. As Anthony Emery concluded in his work about the architecture and history of the castle:

''With the conquest of the Prussian region completed, the second stage of the Order's crusade was to overrun Lithuania, the newly established state to the east developed by several pagan rulers against Mongol pressure. This vast region extended well beyond the river Dneiper, almost as far as Moscow, though relations with the re-united Polish kingdom (1320) were far from calm. The Order's conquest lasted for over a century with limited success, even though there had been a steady flow of guest crusaders from the second quarter of the 14th century as it was the only region still practicing the crusader concept against the infidel. The Order was at the peak of its authority and power with many visitors following in the footsteps of the English pioneers of 1328-29. The French followed a little later. Subsequent crusaders included leading members of the Lovell, Scrope, Beauchamp and Percy families as well as Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby (later Henry IV). He and his entourage fought at the siege of Vilnya (1390), stayed several months at Konigsberg, and returned there two years later.''

Vorburg with rampart added under Hochmeister Heinrich von Plauen, 15th century.

Vorburg with rampart added under Hochmeister Heinrich von Plauen, 15th century. ( Public Domain )

After long and expensive wars with their neighbors, the Grand Master had to make a tough decision. Although it was practically impossible to conquer Malbork castle, it had to be sold by the Teutonic Order in 1450. Despite the centuries of fighting and successful Christianizing of the lands, the Teutonic Order had to leave Pomerania and the areas around it.

They lost lots of land, many castles and significance in the political arena, but the brotherhood survived. Nowadays, their main residence is in Vienna, Austria. They are no longer knights, but now called priests and they continue to be ruled by a grand master, exactly like in medieval times.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Denisova cave, some 150 km (93 mi) south of the city of Barnaul, is the only source of Denisovan's remains. Pictures: The Siberian Times
The distance from the only currently known home of the Denisovans in Altai region to the nearest point of Australia is roughly akin to the length of the Trans-Siberian railway, and yet it is looking increasingly likely that these ancient species of humanoids somehow made this epic journey deep in pre-history, perhaps 65,000 years ago.

Myths & Legends

A vase-scene from about 410 BC. Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his fearsome lion skin headdress, spins Noah/Nereus around and looks him straight in the eye. Noah gets the message and grimaces, grasping his scepter, a symbol of his rule - soon to be displaced in the post-Flood world by Nimrod/Herakles, whose visage reveals a stern smirk.
The Book of Genesis describes human history. Ancient Greek religious art depicts human history. While their viewpoints are opposite, the recounted events and characters match each other in convincing detail. This brief article focuses on how Greek religious art portrayed Noah, and how it portrayed Nimrod in his successful rebellion against Noah’s authority.

Human Origins

Sumerian creation myth
Sumer , or the ‘land of civilized kings’, flourished in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, around 4500 BC. Sumerians created an advanced civilization with its own system of elaborate language and...

Ancient Technology

The School of Athens
Much of modern science was known in ancient times. Robots and computers were a reality long before the 1940´s. The early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Levant used computers in stone, the Greeks in the 2nd century BC invented an analogue computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. An ancient Hindu book gives detailed instructions for the construction of an aircraft –ages before the Wright brothers. Where did such knowledge come from?

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article