Castle of the Warmia chapter, Olsztyn
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Castle of the Warmia chapter

Olsztyn

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An example of the strongest fortress in the estate of the Warmia chapter — headquarters of the administrator of bishops' estate.

History

The building of the fortress dates back to 1346. Probably due to the size of the complex, it was constructed in stages. At first, the north-east wing was erected, which was the main residential and representative building of the complex, as well as the curtain wall from the south-east with the entrance gate. As part of the next stage, implemented in the 70s of the 14th century, peripheral walls from the south-west and north-west were built along with the square tower located in the corner. By the south-western wing, there were utility and administration buildings. The last stage of construction, carried out during the last twenty years of the 14th century and consisted in extending both buildings upwards by one storey. Also, the curtain wall was raised at that time. The tower, which had been hitherto square, received an additional, cylindrical upward extension. In the 15th century the castle was furnished with external fortifications with the Lower Gate safeguarding access from the north-west and constituting, in the Middle Ages, the main entrance to the castle preceded by a wooden bridge on Łyna. The external perimeter of defensive walls was strengthened by cylindrical fortified towers. Although the castle walls were joined with the municipal defensive walls in the mid-15th century, the structure retained its strategic autonomy by separating it from the city with a wide moat. In the 16th century, new vaults were added to the main castle building. In the same century and in the next century, renovation works were carried out. In years 1756-1758, in the place of the south-eastern curtain wall with the entrance gate, a Baroque residential building was erected, and in the second half of the 18th century, a causeway was built which constitutes today the main access route to the castle courtyard from the city. The fire which infested the castle in 1821 and in 1827, destroyed the tower and buildings of the north-eastern wing. In years 1909-1911 the castle served as the seat and chancellery of the president of the district of Olsztyn. At that time, adaptation, and also restoration works were carried out, aimed at restoration of the original Gothic style of the structure. After another renovation in 1926-1928, the south-western wing started to house a regional museum. As opposed to the city, the castle was not damaged as a result of war in 1945 and still in this year it became the seat of the Museum of the Region of Mazury, and in 1945 — the Museum of Warmia and Mazury.

Description

The castle is built on a quadrangle plan sized 40 x 56,5 m. The main building — the north-eastern wing, constituted the most representative part of the complex. The building, topped with a decorative gable, housed armoury, pantry, and premises of the castle administrator, and the treasury of the chapter was probably located in the basement. The rooms on the first floor, where the St. Anna chapel and a three-bay refectory, featuring stellar vaults, as well as the seat of the chapter administrator, a position held in years 1516-1521 by Nicolaus Copernicus, were located, received the richest décor. Over the door to this room, there is a unique astronomical board made personally by the great astronomer, presenting a chart of the spring equinox. The uppermost storey served defensive and warehousing purposes. The opposite, south-western wing, despite its five storeys, is significantly smaller than the main building and demonstrates substantially less impressive, and therefore less representative architectural programme. Its ground floor housed a kitchen, pantry, bakery, brewery and a room of the guardian of the entrance gate. The first floor housed official rooms and residential premises of the burgrave. The uppermost storeys, similarly as in the case of the main building, had warehouse and defensive purposes. A characteristic and at the same time the only survived element among castles in the former Prussia are hoardings, or external defensive porches located just under the roof truss, from where the main entrance to the castle was protected. In years 1530-1531, the chapel once consecrated by bishop Marcin Kromer was transferred to the southern part of the wing, which is, therefore called today Kromer Room. Access to individual storeys was ensured via wooden cloisters adjoined from the courtyard, which features a well in the middle. The tower, which was successively extended upward, today has nine storeys and constitutes a distinct dominating point not only against the silhouette of the castle, but also the city.

The castle is the seat of the Museum of Warmia and Mazury

Compiled by Hanna Mackiewicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board in Olsztyn, 7.10.2014.

Bibliography

  • Kajzer L., Kołodziejski S., Salm J. Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Warszawa 2001, s. 347-350.
  • Czubiel L., Zamki Warmii i Mazur, Olsztyn 1986, s. 52-55.
  • Jackiewicz-Garniec M., Garniec M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach. Powiśle, Górne Prusy, Warmia, Mazury, Olsztyn 2009, s. 288-305

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: 1346-1400 AD
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Olsztyn
  • Location: Voivodeship warmińsko-mazurskie, district Olsztyn, commune Olsztyn
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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