Teutonic castle complex, Brodnica
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Teutonic castle complex

Brodnica

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The structure is an example of a typical Teutonic commander’s castle located in the Chełmno region. It is also one of the largest structures of its kind.

History

The Teutonic castle was erected in two stages. The peripheral walls of the castle grounds were constructed in the years 1305-1317, while the period between 1317 and 1327 saw the con-struction of the high castle, the tower and the residential wings. Year 1339 is generally con-sidered to be the year of completion of the castle, with the castle chapel being consecrated during the same year.

The castle itself was designed on a square plan, comprising four wings surrounding an inner courtyard. Rectangular turrets, projecting ahead of the walls of the main body of the structure, were positioned at its corners. In the northern corner there was a keep designed as a last line of defence, with no links to any of the other buildings. The main gatehouse with foregate as well as the chapter house formed part of the north-eastern wing. The remaining wings of the castle housed the infirmary, the dormitory, the refectory and the chapel. The ground-floor level served a variety of utility and storage functions. A dansker linked to the south-western wing by an overhanging hoarding projected from the wall running alongside the Drwęca river. The high castle, surrounded by a perimeter wall, was accompanied by the castle grounds stretching to the south and the east, protected by their own, separate ring of walls. The area known as Kamionka, located east of the castle grounds, was given protection in 1370 in the form of the northern wall with its own gatehouse known as the Grudziądz gate.

Somewhere around the year 1415, Mikołaj Fellenstein, a construction engineer from Malbork (Marienburg), modernised the inner ring of fortifications, adapting them to the use of firearms, with some of the cylindrical fortified towers being replaced with round bastions.

During the uprising of the towns and cities of Prussia in 1454, the castle was success-fully besieged by the burghers of Brodnica. Later on, however, the castle fell to an onslaught of mercenaries led by Bernard Szumborski. The occupation of the castle continued despite the fact that control of the town of Brodnica was formally handed over to the Polish kings - the Jagiellons - following the 2nd Second Peace Treaty of Thorn (Toruń); it was only in 1479 that the occupation finally ended. From 1481 onwards, the castle served as the seat of the alder-men of Brodnica. In 1485, Mikołaj Działyński, the voivode of Inowrocław, became the al-derman (starosta) of Brodnica. The castle remained in possession of the Działyński family until 1604. The castle sustained heavy losses during the great fire which swept across the town in 1550. Its reconstruction took place during the 1570s. A comprehensive remodelling of the castle grounds took place during the times of Anna Vasa of Sweden, the sister of king Sigis-mund III Vasa and the starosta of Brodnica in the years 1605 - 1625.

Having sustained severe damage during the second war between Poland and Sweden (1655-1660), the castle rapidly descended into a state of ruin. During the Prussian times, the castle was being gradually dismantled, and it was only when king Frederick William IV of Prussia ordered these practices to be discontinued that the renovation works of the surviving castle tower could begin.

The first archaeological studies of the area, during which the remnants of the castle cellars were unearthed, were performed by the Nazi authorities in 1939; later on, the programme of archaeological surveys continued during the post-war years.

Description

The site of the castle is located north-west of the Old Town district. It is situated in the Drwęca river meander, in the immediate vicinity of the river itself. The castle consists of the so-called high castle, the L-shaped castle grounds surrounding it from the north-east and the south-east as well as the former suburb located beyond the north-eastern boundary of the cas-tle grounds, currently serving as a park. The castle grounds are transected by the Zamkowa street, running along the north-west - south-east axis, its course almost identical to that of the former route towards Grudziądz. The preserved canals around the high castle are the relics of the moat, which had once been filled with water from the Struga Brodnicka river which me-anders around the north-western side of the walled suburb, passes by the high castle and then joins the larger Drwęca river.

The high castle was erected on a roughly square plan, positioned diagonally towards the north-south axis. All that remains of the castle complex today are the preserved cellars of the now-defunct four castle wings, the partially reconstructed ground-floor level section of the periph-eral walls, the castle tower (keep) in the northern corner as well as remnants of the high castle defensive walls. The basements of the north-eastern and south-eastern wings feature vaulted ceilings. Above the cellars rises the partially reconstructed layout of the ground-floor level as well as the peripheral walls, including the lowermost sections of the now-defunct corner tow-ers, designed on a square floor plan. The partially reconstructed layout of the ground-floor level of the gatehouse complex can be seen near the tower. The cellars of the south-western and north-western wings feature no ceilings whatsoever and remain exposed to the elements, with both their reconstructed interior layout and the supports of the now-vanished vaults put on display for the visitors to the castle site. The castle tower (keep), designed on a hexagonal floor plan, is a ten-storey structure with an octagonal upper section, topped with a slightly overhanging, crenellated platform on top, which has been converted into an enclosed space through the addition of a roof positioned directly above the battlements. Above this roof rises the uppermost section of the tower, much narrower than the rest of the structure and likewise topped with a crenellated parapet. The remnants of the defensive walls are most visible from the direction of the Drwęca river. Foundations of a round bastion can be seen in the western corner.

Access to the high castle is facilitated by a brick and stone bridge - a contemporary structure replacing the former drawbridge. The original layout of the castle grounds has been disrupted by an intersecting street. The surviving sections of the walls are located on the north-western and north-eastern side, with a round bastion at the corner. A two-storey building designed on an elongated rectangular floor plan, which had once served as the residence of Anna Vasa of Sweden, is located alongside the middle part of the north-western section of the wall.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the site of the former suburb (suburbium) was adapted to serve as a municipal park. The site is separated from the surrounding area by a tall brick and stone wall positioned on the north-western side thereof, its surface featuring architectural ar-ticulation in the form of rhythmically arranged arcaded blind windows topped with round arches. Remnants of the Grudziądz Gate, demolished in the 19th century, can be seen at the eastern edge of the wall.

The site is open to visitors. The high castle serves as a branch of the Brodnica museum. The palace of Anna Vasa of Sweden currently serves, among others, as the Municipal and District Library as well as the Registry Office. The remaining parts of the complex take the form of open-air attractions.

compiled by Piotr Dąbrowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Toruń, 14-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Arszyński M., Budownictwo warowne zakonu krzyżackiego w Prusach (1230-1454), Toruń 1995.
  • Haftka M., Zamki krzyżackie w Polsce. Szkice z dziejów, Malbork 1999.

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: 1305-1317 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Brodnica
  • Location: Voivodeship kujawsko-pomorskie, district brodnicki, commune Brodnica (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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