Teutonic castle, Ełk
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Teutonic castle

Ełk

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A unique example of a castle built by the Teutonic Order on a lake island.

History

The first mentions of the construction of the castle date back to 1398, with further mentions of the structure in 1408. In 1454, as a result of the thirteen-year war, the structure burned down and was reconstructed in 1497. A tower containing a staircase was also built during the same period. In 1520 the ground floor section of the castle received a groin vault. Following the secularisation of the Teutonic Order, under the reign of duke Albrecht Hohenzollern, the castle became the seat of a ducal official. In the 17th and 18th centuries the castle complex was restored; it now had two gates instead of one (the eastern and the western gate, both leading towards the building) and an additional wing was built. At the end of the 18th century the castle buildings began to fall into ruin, and some of them were demolished. During the 19th century the castle island was connected with the mainland: a dike now adjoined the island from the west, while a brick and stone bridge was built on the side of the island which lies closer to the city. In 1888, what remained of the castle was converted into a prision. In years 1946-1976, the castle served as a correctional and detention facility where at least five death sentences were carried out prior to 1950.

Description

The island on the Ełk lake was chosen as the site of the construction of the castle, which further enhanced the defensive capabilities thereof. One of the unusual features of the castle was the main residential section which was designed as a fortified tower; this part of the castle, however, has not survived to the present day. The relatively small building referred to above, erected on a rectangular floor plan (16.5 x 12 m) was situated in the southern part of the island. The foundations of the castle walls were built using field stones, while the walls themselves were made of brick. The lower storeys were used as utility rooms, with a chapel situated upstairs. The entire site was surrounded by curtain walls, while a number of utility buildings – most likely made of wood – stood inside the castle courtyard. On the western side of the castle were the castle grounds, from which a wooden bridge led to the mainland. The prison building erected during the 19th century on the remains of the castle bears no resemblance to the structure which it replaced. It is a two-storey structure with a loft and a basement, built on an elongated rectangular floor plan, covered with a gable roof with dormers. The front facade is flanked by two side avant-corps. The surviving Gothic elements of the castle include the passageway in the basement and in the vestibule as well as the fragment of the portal of the former chapel and the vaults in the basement and in the ground floor section of the eastern part of the early modern building. In place of the former moat there is a cobbled courtyard, while the area of the castle is surrounded with a 19th-century wall.

The structure can be viewed from the outside.

Compiled by Adam Mackiewicz, 7.12.2014.



Bibliography

  • Jackiewicz-Garniec M, Garniec M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach. Powiśle, Górne Prusy, Warmia, Mazury, Olsztyn 2006, p. 136 – 141.
  • Kajzer L., Kołodziejski S., Salm J. Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Warszawa 2001, p. 170.
  • Olszewski M., Żytyniec R., Ełk, spacerownik po niezwykłym mieście, 2012, p. 136
  • Wańkowska-Sobiesiak J., Zamek na wyspie, badania architektoniczne zamku w Ełku, [w:] Warmińsko-Mazurski Biuletyn Konserwatorski, Olsztyn 6/2014, p. 69-83.

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: 1396-1408
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Ełk
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district ełcki, commune Ełk (gm. miejska)
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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