Gotyckie zamki biskupów i kapituły warmińskiej
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

users tour Ewa Krasińska

Gotyckie zamki biskupów i kapituły warmińskiej


one day


Castle of the Warmia chapter

one hour

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


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.


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.


  • 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

transport time to the next site

51 min

Lidzbark Warmiński – The Castle of Bishops of Warmia
Lidzbark Warmiński

two hours

The castle of bishops of Warmia is located today in the eastern part of Lidzbark Warmiński, but in the past it remained outside the town’s defensive walls. The castle lies at the junction of the Symsarna and Łyna Rivers, with which a wet castle moat (currently a pond) was connected that ensured the complex good defensive conditions.

It was one of the seven episcopal castles in the former dominium, which remained under the rule of bishop and the chapter, and, at the same time, constituted part of the diocese of Warmia, separated in 1243 together with the dioceses of Pomezania and Sambia. The location of castles in the dominium was not accidental; they were situated within a distance of maximum one-day trip from each other, which was important for administrative and defensive reasons.

We do not know much about the oldest, probably woodand- earth castle at Lidzbark Warmiński. There is no certainty as to its location, although it is assumed to be built by the Teutonic Knights (around the mid-13th century), but shortly after it was to be taken over by one of the Prussian tribes. The castle passed in the possession of Warmia bishops around 1300, and in 1308, it was mentioned in a privilege that granted municipal rights to Lidzbark Warmiński. The construction of the existing brick castle began in the mid-14th century. The most important construction works were completed in 1373–1401, under Bishop Henryk Sorbom; at that time, the vaulted cloisters were built, the water supply system was developed, the ward was expanded and the defensive walls and moats were erected. From the fifteenth to 17th century, the castle was destroyed several times, but each time it was restored. In 1562, a clock with two bells bearing Bishop Stanisław Hozjusz’s coats of arms was placed on the castle tower. During the reign of Bishop Andrzej Batory, the ground floor of the southern wing was transformed into apartments (ca 1656), while under Bishop Wacław Leszczyński (mid-17th century) rooms on the first floor of the castle were renovated and gained a name of the archbishop’s chambers. Under Bishop Adam Stanisław Grabowski (mid-18th century), several renovations were carried out, including a thorough change of the chapel decor. Over time, the residential functions took precedence over the defensive and administrative functions. Changes in the way of use of medieval castle spaces led not so much to their modernisation, as to decision to build new facilities or entire buildings that would meet the needs of the time. For example, these were now non-existent cardinal’s chambers and, also non-existent, a palace of Bishop Jan Stefan Wydżga as well as a residence of Bishop Adam Stanisław Grabowski, and a summer residence of Bishop Jan Stanisław Zbąski, today called Bishop Krasicki’s orangery. The castle complex served its functions until 1794, when it was abandoned by the last pre-partitioning bishop of Warmia, Bishop Ignacy Krasicki.

In 1807–1812, the building was taken over by the Napoleonic troops for military and economic purposes. As a result of the damage done at that time, it was qualified for demolition. In the 1850s, it was planned to locate a prison in it, but eventually the Saint Joseph Foundation was established, running a hospital and an orphanage, which existed until 1932.

The significance attributed to the castle in the early 20th century, both due to its artistic and historical values, is indicated by the fact that in 1903, the first examination on frescoes were carried out in the great refectory, and in 1925, the Castle Reconstruction Society was established. Over the following years (1926–1937), systematic conservation work was carried out, emphasising the values of Gothic architecture. In 1927, the Castle Museum was established. Thanks to the lack of major war damage, since 1958, the castle again has served cultural functions, and since 1961, it has been a museum facility.

Formerly, the castle complex consisted of three parts: the main castle and two wards – northern and southern. The most important and at the same time the best preserved element, giving an idea of the size and significance of the entire complex, is the main castle. It is a four-wing building on a square plan, with a centrally placed courtyard and a high tower (on a square plan, and octagonal in the upper part) at the northeast corner. At the other corners, there are hung turrets, also on a square plan. The entire castle has a full basement, some basements are two-storey. In the aboveground part, the north and west wings are four-storey, and the east and south wings are three-storey. The entire building is covered with gable roofs. Communication between individual wings and floors is enabled by arcaded, two-storey cloisters, open to the courtyard. The gate passage is located in the middle part of the southern wing, to which a bridge over a dry moat leads, connecting the castle with the southern ward. The rooms in the basement and on the ground floor are covered with a barrel or cross-rib vault, while the first-floor interiors are covered with star vaults of various patterns. The other floors have wooden ceilings. The type of vault on each floor reflects its purpose. On the ground floor there was a guardhouse, an armoury, a kitchen, presumably a brewery and other types of utility rooms. On the first floor there are representative rooms: a meeting hall, a great refectory, bishop’s apartments, a chapel. On the same floor there is also the so-called Watzenrode oratory, located in a tower. The upper floors served storage and defensive purposes. The representative and residential character of the first-floor rooms is emphasised by high-class polychromes and architectural sculpture, created between the 14th and 18th centuries, with religious and political-propaganda overtones. Looking at the rich painting decoration one should pay attention to the scene of the Coronation of Mary in the great refectory or images of the bishops of Warmia in the meeting hall. The group of Gothic paintings, which are located in all the arcades of the first-floor cloisters (Passion, Marian and Christological scenes, images of saints, Last Judgment, hell), have an exceptional significance in Central and Eastern Europe region. The selection of iconographic representations and the realism of their depictions, the soft pattern of robes and a rich range of colours associate the authorship of these paintings with the Czech circles. An example of a high-class work of modern fine arts is the castle chapel, which gained, with respect to the Gothic architectural structure, a comprehensive Baroque-Rococo decoration, mainly with a foundation by Bishop Grabowski.

The castle at Lidzbark Warmiński is one of the most important and best preserved works of Gothic residential and defensive architecture in the Polish lands. This is confirmed both by its spatial layout and the preserved structure, enriched with insignificant and harmonised style build-ups related to the functions served by the object. The form of the Lidzbark episcopal residence derives directly from the architectural and functional model of a regular Conventual castle of the Teutonic Order. Its unique artistic value is demonstrated by the outstanding qualities of Gothic brick architecture, the rare two-storey cloisters or the various stellar vaults as well as the extensive and well-preserved group of religious and political-propaganda painting decorations.

The castle served both church and secular administrative and judicial functions, but most of all, for several hundred years it was a political, intellectual and cultural centre of the Warmian dominium and the entire diocese. It was also a place of residence and work of many great personalities, such as Lucas Watzenrode, Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Dantiscus, Stanislaus Hosius, Marcin Kromer, and Ignacy Krasicki. The castle was also a seat of the first Jesuits who came to Poland.

transport time to the next site

43 min

Castle of bishops of Warmia

one hour

An example of a border area fortress.


The construction of the present brick and stone castle was commenced in 1350, and completed ca. in 1401. The castle complex was based on a rectangular floor plan sized 45 x 48 m. To take advantage of the natural defensive features, the fortress was built on a high hill with a steep slope of the ravine of the river Sajna. It is believed that the initiator of construction of the castle in Reszel was bishop Jan I of Miśnia. Walls of the fortress are made of brick, while the building material for foundations and part of basement walls was fieldstone. Since construction of such a monumental architectural complex required enormous labour and costs, the castle was erected in stages. During the first stage, the eastern house and part of peripheral walls were built. In years 1360–1370, the full perimeter of the fortress with a low corner tower was completed. Until 1400, the southern and western wings were built, as well as brick cloisters, and a foregate and upward extension of the tower built earlier. In the early 15th century, a new gatehouse was built and the curtain wall was extended upwards. The system of external fortifications was extended, and thoroughly modernised in 1505–1533. Under the rule of cardinal Andrzej Batory, the castle underwent comprehensive renovation and construction works. It is hardly know what was the later fate of the castle. What is known is that in the second half of the 18th century the castle lost its importance, which manifested, among other things, in that only some of its rooms were used. In the end of the 18th century, an information appeared that it was earmarked for a prison, which resulted in substantial transformations of the layout of castle rooms. The fires which broke in 1806 and 1807, caused material damages. The reconstruction commenced in years 1822–1823 stopped the advancing destruction, but even with that numerous important elements of the former seat of bishops of Warmia were lost irreversibly. After the renovation, the castle became the seat of a Lutheran congregation, which resulted in further transformations. In the inter-war period, a general renovation of the fortress, which was substantially damaged because of whether conditions and inappropriate use, was undertaken. Following the renovation, a regional museum was housed in the castle. After the World War II, another renovation was started and archeological works were carried out on the castle. During that period, the structure became the seat of "Pojezierze" Association.


The quadrangular castle complex in Reszel was comprised of an eastern wing, housing residential premises and a chapel with a stellar vault on the first floor. The southern wing contained bishop's apartments, small and large refectory, and premises of a tenant. Two uppermost storeys of both wings were used for warehouse and defensive purposes, while on the ground floor, there were utility facilities. The eastern wing housed an armoury, burgrave's kitchen and rooms for officials. In the southern wing on the ground floor there was a kitchen, brewery, and bath. The western wing of the castle featured an entrance gate and two-storey buildings housing administrative and residential premises. The rooms of the northern wing were used in a similar way. Changes in the way the castle was used, which took place later, resulted in numerous transformations of its original form, especially when it comes to the internal layout of rooms and their décor. Even so, the fortress is still an impressive, monumental building.

The castle houses a branch of the Museum of Warmia and Mazury, a hotel, restaurant, and gallery.

Compiled by Hanna Mackiewicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board in Olsztyn, 8 September 2014.


  • Kajzer L., Kołodziejski S., Salm J. Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Warszawa 2001, s. 424-428.
  • Czubiel L., Zamki Warmii i Mazur, Olsztyn 1986, s. 73-81.
  • Rzempołuch A., Architektura zamków warmińskich w świetle najnowszych badań [w:] Folia Fromborcensia, 1992 R. 1, nr 1, s. 14-17.
  • Ciborowski M. Zamek w Reszlu, Reszel, 2001

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