Olsztyn Castle

Olsztyn, Poland

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 of the Order of Teutonic Knights until 1454. For that reason the castle played quite an important role during the wars between the Order and Poland. In 1410, after the battle of Tanneberg, the castle surrounded to the Polish king, and in 1414 after a short besiege it was seized by Polish troops. During the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466) the castle changed hands several times. In 1521 the Teutonic Knights threatened the castle and the town. Owing to the defense measures taken by the castle administrator, Nicolas Copernicus, they gave in after one, unsuccessful attack. Nicolas Copernicus stayed at the castle as the administrator of the chapter property in 1516-1519 and 1520-1521. He lived in the north-east wing, in a large chamber with a view from two windows of the Łyna river and the castle mill. The third window overlooked the castle court. One door led to the castle wall walk and another to the chancery. In the early 16th century both rooms received beautiful crystal vaulting, which was rather low, but four hundred years later the rooms were made higher by lowering the floor.

Within the castle walls, as part of the south-west wing, there is St Anna's Chapel, built in the first half of the 16th century and consecrated by Bishop Martin Kromer in 1580. The external wall of the south wing is topped with very well preserved machicolations - protruding wooden walks with murder holes, through which castle defenders hurdled stones or poured boiling hot water or tar on heads of attackers. In the 18th century Olsztyn castle began to lose stature as the seat of the chapter administration had been moved to Frombork. Also its defensive function began to vanish. When some of the castle walls had been demolished, in 1758 a new palace wing was built, facing the town. In the years to follow the castle served different purposes, including a prison. When the regency of Olsztyn (a large administrative district in Prussia) was created in 1905, the castle was adapted to house an apartment for the president of the regency.

In 1945 the castle became the seat of the Masurian Museum, later renamed into the Museum of Warmia and Mazury. Visitors can see the fine first floor of the north wing, including such rooms as the castle administrator's living chamber, the chancery, the refectory and the old chapel. Upstairs they can see the storage and defensive top floor of the castle. Another building opened to the public is the corner watchtower, from which everyone can admire the views of the town. Today the castle is a popular venue for concerts, art exhibitions, lectures, scientific sessions, film shows (examples include cyclic summer meetings called Thursdays with Copernicus, concerts of the Olsztyn-based chamber music ensemble Pro Musica Antiqua, a series of meetings named Biographies). The Museum in Olsztyn is known for its unorthodox forms of sightseeing. On certain days or nights visitors can look into rooms which are usually closed to the public; they can try on medieval armory or costume. The youngest visitors are invited to take part in special workshops.

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Address

Zamkowa 2, Olsztyn, Poland
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Details

Founded: 1346-1353
Category: Castles and fortifications in Poland

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

kierran lister paxton (11 months ago)
Had the pleasure of attending a concert in the grounds of the castle during the summer of 2019. I loved every moment I was in Olsztn and am very much looking forward to going back one day.
Paweł (14 months ago)
The Castle of Warmian Cathedral Chapter in Olsztyn served as a defensive structure, as well as the seat of the administrator of the Warmian Chapter’s landed property. The castle’s most famous resident was Nicolaus Copernicus and on one of the walls, an original astronomical table plotted by the astronomer has been preserved. Nowadays, the castle is the seat of the Museum of Warmia and Mazury.
John Keenan (2 years ago)
Decent, short museum. It has a cheap entrance fee and it was quiet in terms of tourists. Not the most exciting material on offer to read & learn but a nice excuse to view the castle inside and outside.
Michael Wexler (2 years ago)
An organized and maintained museum, interesting exhibits, few visitors. highly recommend
Dajana Sowieso (3 years ago)
Beautiful place, good presentation via Audioguide. Calculate 2,5 hours if interested in the place.
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