Castles of the Teutonic Knights

Maasi Fortress Ruins

Maasi medieval fort-castle was built with the forced labour of islanders. That's how the ruling Liivi order punished indigenous inhabitants for the uprising, which had destroyed orders previous stronghold. Seaside fort-castle was undefeated until destroyed by Danes. The fortress was blown up in 1576 by the Danes in an attempt to forestall the Swedish invasion and nothing was done for the next 300 years. 8m walls that ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Vecdole Castle Ruins

Vecdole Castle (Schloss Alt-Dahlen) was built in the early 13th century (before 1226 when it was first time mentioned). It was built as a vassal castle for the arcbishop of Riga and destroyed already in 1298. Today only ruins remain.
Founded: ca. 1226 | Location: Salaspils, Latvia

Tarvastu Castle Ruins

The place of the Tarvastu castle has been an ancient fortified stronghold. A medieval Order castle, surrounded by a moat, was built at the River Tarvastu, during the 14th century, and exploded in 1596. In the yard of the front stronghold, there is a light-coloured classicist chapel, founded in 1825, to be burial place of the v. Mensenkampff's family. The suspension bridge, which connected the hill of the front fort wi ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Viljandimaa, Estonia

Vasknarva Castle Ruins

The first Vasknarva order castle (Neuschloss) was founded in 1349 on the northeastern border of Old Livonia. 1427–1442 a new castle (Vastne-Narva) was built, which became the centre of the vogtei of the Livonian Order. The castle was wracked in the Livonian War. Until the Great Northern War it was a fort of great importance, commanding the mouth of the Narva River. It has been known in Russian chronicles either as S ...
Founded: 1349 | Location: Ida-Virumaa, Estonia

Vilaka Castle Ruins

Viļaka Castle was built by Archbishopric of Riga in 1342 as a wooden castle. At first it was closed monastery. It was rebuilt as a stone castle between 1509-1516. During Livonian war time in 1582 it was destroyed and finally demolished in 1702. The outer walls are 1.6m thick, remaining fragments of the walls are up to 2 meters high.
Founded: 1342 | Location: Viļaka, Latvia

Virtsu Castle Ruins

The castle of Virtsu belonged to vassals of the feudal state Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek - Western part of nowadays Estonia as well as part of Saaremaa and part of Hiiumaa. It was built in 1430 by Uexküll noble family and destroyed already in 16th century. Now the ruined walls are few metres high, but it really looks that there is almost nothing. That's because grass and bush is growing on the ruins. Reference: ...
Founded: 1430 | Location: Hanila, Estonia

Labiau Castle Ruins

The earliest mention of Labiau dates back to 1258. At that time Labiau was most probably an old Baltic Prussian village or a small fortified settlement. The first timber fortress was built by the Teutonic Knights during the second Prussian surge, around the year 1274 (other sources suggest that the first stronghold was established in 1258). It stood at the mouth of the Laba River and protected this waterway. During the Pr ...
Founded: 1360 | Location: Polessk, Russia

Neuhausen Castle Ruins

The first reliable mention of Neuhausen dates back to 1292, when Bishop Christian von Mühlhausen ordered to raise a fortified castle in this location. Following the reformation of the Catholic Church in Prussia in 1525 the castle became a property of Albrecht Hohenzollern of Brandenburg. The Duke had the castle completely redesigned, converting it into a suburban hunters manor. In 1550, when the Duke had made a decis ...
Founded: 1292 | Location: Guryevsky, Russia

Kurzetnik Castle Ruins

Kurzętnik Castle was built by Teutonic Knights in the 14th century. The construction began around 1331 and was completed before 1361. The large castle was 110m long and 42m wide. The first floors were built of granite and upper were brick-made. There was a chapel church in the inner yard. The suffered damages in wars between Teutonic Order and Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1410s and again in 1659 in Swedish army ...
Founded: 1330-1361 | Location: Kurzętnik, Poland

Dzierzgon Castle Ruins

The construction of the Teutonic Castle in Dzierzgoń began in 1248, as ordered by the national champion Heinrich von Wida. At its location there was chosen towering hill over the area, where previously was a fortified city of Prussia, to protect the settlement lying at its feet. The fort was the seat of the Commander of Dzierzgoń, who also held the function of the Quatermaster (Obersttrappier) in the Order of t ...
Founded: 1248 | Location: Dzierzgoń, Poland

Przezmark Castle Ruins

The construction of the Przezmark castle started at the beginning of the 1300s continued until c. 1350. In the next centuries the stronghold was repeatedly converted because it was adjusted to new functions: the seat of a commune head, a prosecuting attorney and a convent. Since the beginning of the 16th century the castle belonged to the bishops of Pomesania as to later come into hands of the families of von Egmon and vo ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Przezmark, Poland

Stary Dzierzgon Castle Ruins

Stary Dzierzgoń was one of the first Teutonic fortresses in the territory of Prussia.The castle was built in 1234 on the site of a Prussian stronghold. It was devastated in 1243 and abandoned in 1247 when the Teutonic Order moved its seat to the brand new castle in nearby Dzierzgoń. The outline of the moat and the embankments are the only remains of the fortress.
Founded: 1234 | Location: Stary Dzierzgon, Poland

Czluchow Castle

Człuchów Castle consists of some of the defence walls and the 46-metre tower. The Człuchów stronghold was built during the 14th Century by the Teutonic Order. The exact date of completion is unknown but it is assumed to be the year 1365. During the history, the castle was considered an unconquerable fortress, and was an important element in the defence system of the monastic State. The glory days o ...
Founded: c. 1365 | Location: Czluchow, Poland

Zamek Kiszewski Castle Ruins

The first Teutonic castle in Zamek Kiszewski was surrounded by the Wierzyca and marshy grasslands. In 1454 the castle was destroyed by the armies of Gdańsk, and again in 1655 when it was taken over by the Swedes. The surviving remnants of the 14th century castle complex are its defensive walls with Teutonic keeps and a gatehouse. At the foot of the castle there is also a Neoclassical manor house, which dates back to ...
Founded: 1350 | Location: Zamek Kiszewski, Poland

Sobowidz Castle Ruins

Sobowidz Castle was built in the second half of 14th century by the Teutonic Order. During the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War it was conquered by Polish, but later returned to Teutonic Order. The castle was mainly destroyed in 1454 when Teutonic Knights surrended. In the 16th century the castle was rebuilt to Governor palace, but it was again destroyed by Swedish army in the 17th century and demolished in 19th ...
Founded: c. 1340 | Location: Sobowidz, Poland

Kowalewo Pomorskie Castle Ruins

In 1231 the city of Kowalewo was captured by the Teutonic Knights. They soon built a castle, and in 1275 they granted city rights to this developing settlement. After the complete destruction of the city and the castle by the Tatars in 1286, relocation took place, most probably under the conditions of the Chełmno Law. The castle was rebuilt in 1278. Invasions of the Prussians, Tatars, and Lithuanians hastened the dec ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kowalewo Pomorskie, Poland

Nowy Jasiniec Castle Ruins

In the Middle Ages Nowy Jasiniec castle served as a border stronghold on the trade route from Polish to Pomesania. It was conquered and rebuilt by the Teutonic Order in the 14h century. During the wars between Teutonic Order and Poland it was destroyed and then rebuilt again in 1454. Between 1466-1772 Nowy Jasiniec was the seat of local lords. Between 1773-1846 the castle served as an evangelical church. Later it fell int ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nowy Jasiniec, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.