The Rich History Of Malbork Castle

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Malbork Castle (originally Marienburg) sits on the right bank of the river Nogat. Its delta with the Baltic Sea is 40 kilomiteres away. It was the headquarters of the Order of Teutonic Knights, the castle was developed in stages by the Order, from 1275 to 1405; during the process the castle has became the largest brick building in the world with area of 143,591 square meters. Malbork has been involved in the war and about half of it destroyed during WW2; however the fortress has been reconstructed in 1962 as further damage was caused by the fire in 1959. The fortress stands complete is one of the most magnificent examples of medieval architecture.

On the south side the castle was protected by thick 3 meter thick walls and; however from the north and west there was no need for such a man made defensive structure as the castle was defended by the river and marshlands on the east. Malbork consists of three parts, all connected to form a network of fortification.The first was the outer castle which used to hold, workshops supporting the order, accommodation for the supporting staff and stables. The Middle castle was the second and mostly administrative part of the castle, holding hospitality for knights and general guests of the Order.

It was also the home of the Grand Master who was the highest ranked member of the Order living in the complex. The Upper Castle had the most importance and it was built first; it was the absolute heart of Malbork. It was the religious crusading order, so the church, dormitories, church, chapter house and kitchen had to be included.Marlbork is the city located in the region of Pomerania, North Poland. Before the Marienburg castle was built the city did not exist and the area was purely rural with forests and swamp. The fortress at first became a complex which was more like a fortified city within. It was the later ages of about 14th century when the city started to form. Architecturally the place had unlimited possibilities, due to the space and the firm quality of the ground; as well as protection from the river. At the time of the castle’s completion Poland has been split into smaller states; each of them had their own court and system of justice. The region of Prussia (the name in 12th century) lacked any type of authority. The area of Prussia started within the Baltic Sea and went as far as the other side of the Vistula river; it was mostly occupied by Pagan tribes.

In the 12th century there were two main religious orders of the Hospitallers and Templars; their aim was to protect the pilgrims to the Holy Land. At the end of the 12th century they have need transformed into military orders; they were joined by German merchants from Lubeck and Bremen who called themselves ‘the Order of Teutonic Knights’. The order has made numbers of shipments to the Holy Land; however, opportunities have have dropped and the Order decided to expand and take control in a Baltic region.

Marienburg is extremely important in the history of architecture. It was built in a Gothic style, more correctly Baltic Gothic. The closes match for this type of building is the Cathedral in Norman style, built close to Durham, England. It was built in 1093 but the absolute key moment happened in 1135 when the ribbed vaulting was complete. “Although the theory that has just been formulated may be correct, one must also consider the possibility that, in introducing the rib in 1093, the architect of Durham was influenced by the belief that it was an improvement in terms of statics.”

There is a belief that Durham Cathedral is architecturally important because; it contains the earliest stone vaulting of such size in the world; such, allowed the structure to be lighter due to the additional support of the ribs. In addition, the ribs transferred the weight of the ceiling towards the walls. As a result, pointed arches proved to be less complex than the rigid geometry of the semi-circular arch. Less weight meant slimmer and taller structure which was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It is believed that the influence from Durham has been brought to Marienburg with Teutonic Knights. It is impossible to refuse there are similarities between the two but it must be mentioned that Durham was a Norman building which was a much earlier style. It is intriguing how a cathedral in Norman style has been introduced with typically Gothic details and connected the above so well. There are multiple examples of Gothic architecture within Europe, similar to Malbork.

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The castle in Vincennes, outside Paris is the one standing out. It was a residence of the royals. The massive fortress has been built in 1340 and was a placeof deaths of three kings. Similarly to Malbork it had a Church within it, which has highly Gothic like characteristics. All three of these architectural pieces have been made using Gothic principles.Architecture as part of Gothic art developed with the transformation of society. The changes in economies, politics, the Church and the way of thinking in general, which took place in France in the 12th and 13th centuries, contributed to a sudden boom in the art of the building.In many ways this naturally took up the thread from the tradition of Romanesque architecture. The process of the unification of France, which occurred in 1130-1270 under the leadership of the Capet dynasty, corresponds to the period of the birth and efflorescence of French cathedrals.This long process is believed to have be connected to Paris and the district of Ile-de-France. Louis VI chose Paris as the capital city of his kingdom and thus declared his support for the Merovingian tradition. Under his reign churches began to be built, which were linked to the innovations of the Romanesque architecture of Normandy and burgundy. One of them in burgundy, the pointed arch, the continuous bay, the three-tier vertical division and the buttress. In Normandy the rhythm of future bays was anticipated with shafts that have the walls of the still flat-ceilinged nave a regular articulation.

Most possibly the key event in the history of Gothic is the reconstruction of the abbey of Saint-Denis, located close to Paris. It was the burial place of kings. Abbot Sugger was the man considered to be in charge, he was the king’s counsellor and chamberlain. From 1140 to 1148 had rebuilt a two story west tower and the east end of the choir.

At a similar time there was Abbot Bernard who was rebuilding, the convent church of the Cistercians in Clairvaux, Burgundy. The characteristics of Gothic have been used before in the Islamic architecture of Siciliy or pre-romanesque and later Romanesque. Gothic architecture used these elements and mastered them in order to reduce physical matter and to make the cathedrals as airy as possible and to give them spirit. Hand in hand with that went the attempt to unify the interior space and to emphasise the special role of light. Some say that gothic architecture is the “structural functionalism” that led to skeleton construction, where every part of it is localised as accurately as possible.

As a result of the rational construction of the ribbed vault, the thrust from the mass of the vaults and the roof is transmitted from the wall out to four corner piers where it is taken up by the outer supports. Malbork has been going through phrases and therefore there are different layers of bricks accordingly to the time of the construction. Malbork’s bricks vary in size from 15 by 29 to 32 cm by 9 ½ cm and have been casted on site using the local resources. In the later 14th century the bricks have been made on the opposite side of the river Nogat. Thedark headers on the East side of the Upper Castle shows that they were the feature since the beginning. The brickwork is the unique representation of the castle’s history which is divided into 3 main stages. The first one is marked with red weathered medieval brickwork, without obvious mortar.The second stage is the restoration carried out in the late 19th century by Steinbrecht, who used the dark red brick with mortar being easily recognisable. In the later 20th century, last stage used much lighter brick, again with mortar not being visible.

Materials for the creation of Marienburg were obtained locally so the labour services. The craftsmen were not available locally therefore had to be acquired elsewhere; as the Order was German skilled craftsmen had been imported from Germany. It included master-masons, carpenters, glaziers, blacksmiths, bricklayers etc.

In Prussia there were two types of foundations at the time; one of them was making a foundation wall and the second included creating foundation pillars which were connected at the certain height with arcades (still underground). This particular area of Prussia was called Zulawy and it was for the river Nogat and marshlands as two main factors in the positioning of the castle. In the region there was the lack of quality building stone; therefore it was sure from the beginning that the building would be brick built. Foundations had to be able to hold enormous amounts of weight so impenetrable foundations were needed; as a result it was raised on a rock base. The first five to seven feet of walls were constructed of river boulders and infilled with smaller stones. The foundations lay below the ground level with a slight batter above ground. Most often there are base supports, for example the footings of a buttress, in this case the walls lacked support for buttresses until the Grand Master’s Palace was expanded in the late 14th century. The Knights Hall also called the great refectory was made for visiting guests and knights. It was the biggest room in the castle with space to hold up to 400 guests. It is perhaps one of the first secular apartments in medieval Europe. It has a complex vaulted ceiling being supported by three delicate columns with beautifully painted windows to make an instant impression on all visitors. More ribs have been used to provide a feeling of slim trees similarly to a Wells cathedral.

Beyond the lower end of the hall there was a kitchen similar to the one of the upper castle with w a big hearth. The Knights Hall had its own wardrobe and cellar which is the evidence of the heating system used in the refectory.The great hall was a synthesis of military and secular architecture and it was a perfect preamble to the Grand Master’s residence. There are two faces to the Grand Master’s residence. From the courtyard it is not particularly exciting, due to its modest form. The approach from the river; however, is a magnificent with elaborate frontages being the contrast to the dominating military facades of the Upper Castle. This wing of the palace is the later extension; it stands on two basement floors. First one with small openings which have been covered with bricks. The floor above however, with bigger openings and then even higher it was the Chancellery with large stone windows separated by brick buttresses. The Order of Teutonic Knights has transformed, by the early 14th century it mainly depended on the trained knights and warriors. The pious monks have been part of the religious conversion. As a result the castle has transformed architecturally.

Middle Castle started to be function as the reception for soldiers and crusaders, as well as the the care of the sick. It became a combination of defensive and domestic architecture; it was both monastery and a residence. It was a connection of internal elegance with external invulnerability. This piece of writing is about the history of the castle and its architecture. The connection of the “Gothic” as a whole is evident throughout most parts of the castle. There is a wide variety of such a style. It has progress within the history. As the complex has been expanded as well as destroyed and owned by Germans, Polish and Lithuanians. Every single nation hade a different approach to Gothic, that’s why the place is so unique. There is the contrast between the severity of the late 13th century monastic castle and the richness of the development of the Middle Castle.

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