Castles of the Teutonic Knights

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

Torun Castle Ruins

In spring 1231 Teutonic Knights crossed river Vistula at the height of Nessau and established a fortress. On 28 December 1233, the Teutonic Knights Hermann von Salza and Hermann Balk signed the foundation charters for Thorn and Che³mno. The original document was lost in 1244. The set of rights in general is known as Kulm law. In 1236, due to frequent flooding, it was relocated to the present site of the Old Town. Torun ...
Founded: 1231 | Location: Toruñ, 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

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

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

Alden Biesen Castle

The knights of the Teutonic Order originally founded the Alden Biesen commandery in the 11th century, but the current buildings were constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries. It was the headquarters of a bailiwick or province of the Teutonic Order in the region of the Maas and Rhine. On 8 March 1971 the building burnt down and was acquired by the government and restored. In addition to the moated castle, the comple ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Rijkhoven, Belgium

Lidzbark Warminski Castle

Lidzbark Gothic Castle was built in 1350-1401 on a site previously occupied by a small Prussian fort called Lecbarg, which had been situated between two rivers: the Łyna and the Symsarna. For many years Lidzbark Castle was a residence of the bishops of Warmia and a stronghold protecting the eastern border of their domain. The basic structure of the castle consists of four wings enclosing the inner ward, surrounded b ...
Founded: 1350-1401 | Location: Gmina Lidzbark Warmiński, 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

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

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

Krimulda Castle Ruins

The Krimulda Castle dates from the 14th century and was destroyed in a war in 1601. During the 13th century the left bank of the Gauja river was governed by the Order of the Brethren of the Sword, (later known as the Order of Livonia), while the territories on the right bank were under the domain of the Archbishop of Riga. Krimulda castle belonged to the Riga High Council which was a group of twelve high priests who advis ...
Founded: ca. 1255 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Toolse Castle

The castle of Toolse was built in 1471 by the Livonian Order as defence against pirates sailing in the Gulf of Finland. During the Livonian War it changed hands several times, was apparently destroyed and later rebuilt. In 1581 French mercenary Pontus de la Gardie captured the castle for Sweden from Russia which had held it since 1558. The castle was destroyed again during the Great Northern War, ever since which it has ...
Founded: 1471 | Location: Kunda, 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

Reszel Castle

The first Teutonic stronghold was built in Reszel already in 1241 but the construction of a brick castle began only over a century later. It was due to endless rebellions of the Barts, a Prussian tribe, who had never accepted the conquest and continually attacked the Teutonic outpost. Since 1243 Reszel was officially granted to Warmian bishops but the Teutonic squad left the stronghold only in 1300. Bishop John I of Meis ...
Founded: 1350 | Location: Gmina Reszel, Poland

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

Klaipeda Castle Ruins

Klaipėda Castle, also known as Memelburg or Memel Castle, is an archeological site and museum housed in a castle built by the Teutonic Knights. The castle was first mentioned in written sources in 1252, and underwent numerous destructions and reconstructions in the centuries that followed. The Christian Teutonic Order had been waging an ongoing war against the Prussians during the 13th century; in order to entrench ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Klaipėda, Lithuania

Raudondvaris Castle

Raudondvaris Castle is a Gothic-Renaissance gentry residence, located in the eponymous town of Raudondvaris. First mentioned as a pagan keep by Teutonic chroniclers in 1392. When Samogitia was handed over to the Order, the Teutons built a small castle of Koenigsburg on the site, housing 80 knights and 400 soldiers. The castle was further strengthened and enlarged following the Battle of Grunwald. Since then it was the per ...
Founded: 1653-1664 | Location: Raudondvaris, Lithuania

Golub-Dobrzyn Castle

Golub-Dobrzyñ Castle was built by Teutonic Knights at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, later rebuilt and extended in the 15th century. Between 1616 and 1623 it was a residence of Anna of Finland; during this period a Renaissance attic was added. The castle was destroyed during the The Deluge. In the 19th century, it was neglected and a gale caused the collapse of its attic. After 1945 the castle was rebuilt and r ...
Founded: c.1300 | Location: Golub-Dobrzyñ, Poland

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

Radzyn Chelminski Castle

Radzyn Chelminski was the seat of the Teutonic Knights" Commandry. The castle is one of the oldest castles built by the Teutonic Knights, built in the 13th century. In 1446 the castle went into Polish control, in 1628 during wars with the Swedes the castle was partially devastated, slowly turning into a ruin. Currently you are still able to see the tower - damaged by artillery fire. In 1780 Prussian authorities order ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Radzyn Chelminski, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.