Castles of the Teutonic Knights

Ryn Castle

At the end of the 14th century, Teutonic Knights built a castle in Ryn, serving as a base for fighting with the Lithuanians. Until 1525, the castle was the seat of the commander. After two years of the construction of the castle, then the Grand Master of the Order Winrich von Kniprode arrived in Ryn to inspect and take over the castle, and returned to the Malbork by waterway. In 1723 Ryn received city rights granted by th ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ryn, Poland

Olsztyn Castle

Olsztyn castle is the oldest building in the town. It was built in the 14th century and originally consisted of two wings. The archaeological research proves that the fortress was built from scratch, on a raw piece of land, where no traces of any earlier settlement have ever been found. The castle belonged to the chapter of the Warmia diocese, which along with the bishop of Warmia was subjected to the military protection ...
Founded: 1346-1353 | Location: Olsztyn, Poland

Morag Castle Ruins

The first wooden Morag castle was built around 1280 by Teutonic Knights. It was rebuilt as a brick castle between 1331 and 1384. It was surrounded by a deep moat. In 1414 the castle moved temporarily to the possession of Poland army. The castle was abandoned later and the tower was demolished in 1616. Today ruins and a later Renaissance manor remain.
Founded: 1280 | Location: Morąg, Poland

Malbork Castle

The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (Ordensburg Marienburg), completed in 1406, is the largest castle in the world by surface area, and the largest brick building in Europe. The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress. UNESCO designated the 'Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork' and the Malbork Castle Museum as the World Heritage Site in 1997. The castle was built by the Teutonic Order after the con ...
Founded: 1274-1406 | Location: Malbork, Poland

Turaida Castle

Turaida Castle is a recently reconstructed medieval castle in Turaida. The castle was originally constructed in the Brick Gothic style in 1214 under Albert, archbishop of Riga, on the site of the destroyed wooden castle of the Livonian leader Caupo of Turaida. Construction and development of the fortifications continued to the 17th century, when the castle started to lose its strategic importance. It was badly damaged by ...
Founded: 1214 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Olsztynek Castle

Olsztynek Castle was built by Ostródan Gunter von Hohenstein, the commander of Teutonic Order, between 1349 and 1366. The brick Gothic castle was conquered by Wladyslaw II Jagiello in 1410. It was destroyed in 1656 by Tatars of Crimean Khanate and left to decay. The castle was reconstructed in 1847-1849 and moved as a school.
Founded: 1349-1366 | Location: Olsztynek, Poland

Darlowo Castle

Although documents directly relating to the construction of the castle in Darłowo have not been found yet, the results of archaeological and architectural and historical premises allow us to date back the creation of the castle to the second half of the 14th century. It was during the reign of the prince of the House of Griffins, Boguslaw V and Elizabeth, the daughter of King Casimir the Great. The prince purchased the i ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Darłowo, Poland

Kuressaare Castle

Kuressaare Castle from the 14th century is a symbol of Kuressaare and all of Saaremaa island. The convent building at the castle is the only surviving medieval fortified building in the Baltic States without noteworthy architectural alterations. The construction of the stronghold was closely connected with the Estonians' fight against the German feudals. In 1227 the last Estonian county - Saaremaa surrendered to the Germ ...
Founded: 1260s | Location: Kuressaare, Estonia

Dinkelsbühl Castle

The castle of the Teutonic Order in Dinkelsbühl was originally called "Tewtscher Hof" (around 1350) and situated next to the almshouse. When the town was extended in 1390 it was rebuilt in its actual position. Newer building was built in Baroque style (1764). The valuable Rocaille cartouche on the gable and rococo chapel with intricate stucco are worth of seeing.
Founded: 1764 | Location: Dinkelsbühl, Germany

Helme Castle

Helme church parish was first mentioned in 1329 during a Lithuanian raid. Most of the neighbouring land was fiefed in the 15th–16th centuries. Livonian Order castle in Helme (Ordensburg Helmet) was probably built in the first half of the 14th century. The site on a steep hill is belived to have been used as a stronghold earlier by Sackalians in the Ancient Estonia. By its ground plan the order castle was 120× ...
Founded: ca. 1330 | Location: Valgamaa, Estonia

Edole Castle

Ēdole Castle was built for the bishop of Piltene between 1264 and 1267. It was rebuilt in the 16th century and from 1561 until 1920 it was the property of the Baltic-German Baron von Behr and his descendents. During the 18th century the castle was expanded and from 1835 to 1841 it underwent a major reconstruction work to become one of the first samples of Neo-Gothic architecture in Kurzeme. The building was partly b ...
Founded: 1264-1267 | Location: Edole, Latvia

Jaunpils Castle

Jaunpils Castle was erected in 1301 by the Master of the German branch of the Livonian Order, Gottfried von Roga. The tower was added in the 15th century. The castle was heavily damaged in war by Swedes in 1625. Later a third floor was added and the old fortress became a manor with all conveniences in the end of the 17th century. The building was partly reconstructed in 18th century. The castle was burned down during the ...
Founded: 1301 | Location: Jaunpils, Latvia

Põltsamaa Castle

The construction of Põltsamaa Castle was started in 1272. Between 1570 and 1578 it was the residence of Livonia's King Magnus. Repeatedly pillages, the castle was rebuilt by Woldemar Johann von Lauw in 1770 as a grand rococo-style palace. The castle, and the church built into its cannon tower, burnt down in 1941. Põltsamaa St. Nicholas' Church was built from 1632 to 1633 on the site of earlier build ...
Founded: 1272 | Location: Põltsamaa, Estonia

Nowe Castle

Nowe is a small town beautifully situated on the high bank of the Vistula River. On the steep bank slope, at the turn of the 12th and 13th century stood a mighty fortress, which, along with castles in Stargard and Świecie used to monitor ship traffic on the Vistula. The importance of the castle in Nowe emphasized the fact that it was a residence of Castellan duke Świętopełek II. According to the chron ...
Founded: c. 1350 | Location: Nowe, Poland

Karksi Castle

The castle was probably built in the 13th century most likely in place of an ancient Estonian stronghold. The bailiwick of Karksi was first mentioned in 1248. The stronghold had a chapel dedicated to Apostle Peter. The first reference was made to a local clergyman in 1298. The present stone church, very simple in design, was built in the same place between 1773 and 1778. St. Peter’s Church is in the ruins of Karksi ...
Founded: 1298 | Location: Viljandimaa, Estonia

Bad Mergentheim Castle

The castle of Mergentheim was the residence of the Grand Masters of German Teutonic Order from 1525-1809. In 1996 the museum was opened with around 3000 m² of exhibition space. The 800-year history of the German Teutonic Order from 1190 to the present day is illustrated with objects, works of art and models. The castle has a rich architectural history. There are Romanesque structural elements (residential quarter co ...
Founded: 1525 | Location: Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Ostróda Castle

The first earth and timber fort was raised in Ostróda (Osterode) by the Teutonic knights in the mid-13th century. It stood in the fork between the Drwęca river branches, replacing an earlier Prussian stronghold. Construction of a brick castle built on a stone foundation was started by the Ostróda Commander (Hauskomtur) around 1349. The old earth and timber fortress together with the unfinished brick cas ...
Founded: 1349-1370 | Location: Ostróda, Poland

Gniew Castle

The Order of Brothers of the German House Saint Mary In Jerusalem took possession on the land of Gniew in 1283. Based on the law of Che³mno in 1297 the city stood next to the Teutonic castle built to the pattern of convent castles. The monumental silhouette along with the church of St. Nicholas is still constitute the characteristic dominant of the southern panorama of Gniew. The Gniew Castle was the most powerful claim ...
Founded: 1290 | Location: Gniew, Poland

Kwidzyn Castle

Kwidzyn contains the partially ruined 14th century Brick Gothic Ordensburg castle of the Teutonic Order, namely the Bishops of Pomesania within the Order. Connected to the castle to the east is a large cathedral (built 1343-1384) containing the tombs of the bishops as well those of three Grand Masters of the Teutonic Knights. The former Prussian fortress in Kwidzyn, which was occupied by the Teutonic Knights in 1233, rec ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kwidzyn, Poland

Bytów Castle

The castle in Bytów was built by the Teutonic Knights in 1398-1405. The major construction works were supervised by Nicolaus Fellensteyn, a master builder of the Order. The construction of the castle fell to the period when Jacob von Reinach was the procurator of Bytów and Konrad von Jungingen was the Order"s Grand Master. The castle was located on a hill, towering above the town, which guaranteed excel ...
Founded: 1398-1405 | Location: Bytów, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.