e do not know the exact date when Ostróda castle was founded. Presumably, the first fortified knight's manor functioned here already before 1270, playing a strategic role as a Teutonic border watchtower and a base for further conquests of lands inhabited by Prussian tribes. It was certainly also an administrative, economic and military center, next to which a small settlement evolved. A convenient location on the trade route leading from Mazovia to the Baltic Sea promoted its development, thanks to which the settlement obtained municipal status as early as 1329. In 1341, the (still wooden) Teutonic stronghold became the capital of a commandery, to which such localities as Nidzica, Dąbrówno, Olsztynek, Iława and Działdowo were subordinate.
ENTRANCE TO THE CASTLE COURTYARD, IN THE FOREGROUND WE CAN SEE RELICS OF THE GATE TOWER
he growing position of the town and its new functions as a local center of Teutonic administration influenced the decision to build a new castle that would provide a secure headquarters for the commander and his crew. Construction work began around the middle of the 14th century, during the reign of commander Günter von Hohenstein (d. 1380), and lasted for three decades. In 1381, when the castle was almost finished, the Lithuanian troops of Prince Kiejstut invaded and destroyed it - consequently, its reconstruction took until the end of the 14th century. It is worth mentioning here that the stronghold in Ostróda from the very beginning belonged to the best armed in the entire Teutonic State, and was one of the first to have cannons. Inventories from 1391 list one large and three small stone ball cannons and two cannons shooting with lead balls.
SOUTHERN WING OF THE CASTLE
n addition to the aforementioned artillery, at the beginning of the 14th century, the castle's arsenal contained 128 armors, 88 helmets, 262 crossbows, 54 shields and 23 smaller guns. After the Teutonic Knights lost the Battle of Grunwald (August 15, 1410), in which the commander of Ostróda, Gamrath von Pintzenau, has fallen, the castle was taken by troops of the Prussian knight Mikołaj von Doringen, who handed it over to the Polish king. The latter allowed the bodies of Teutonic dignitaries killed in the battle to be deposited in the castle chapel, among them the corpses of Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen and the aforementioned commander of Ostróda (they were later transported to Malbork). A crew of duke Janusz I of Mazovia garrisoned the castle, but in early September 1410 it was forced to retreat under the attack of Teutonic troops. Thus Ostróda returned to the hands of the Order, and already the following year Grand Master Heinrich von Plauen (d. 1429) organized here a great council of Prussian states, at which the reconstruction of the country from war damage was considered and new taxes were approved.
RECONSTRUCTED CLOISTERS IN THE CASTLE COURTYARD
hortly after the outbreak of the Thirteen Years' War (February 4, 1454), the castle was captured after a two-day siege by troops of insurgents rebelling against the Teutonic authority. However, they lost it just three weeks later and from then until 1525 the stronghold remained in the hands of the Order. When the Teutonic state ceased to exist as a separate political entity in 1525, the town took over the function of the district (starosty) capital, whose seat became the former Teutonic castle. Its first governor was the former commander Quirin Schlick (d. after 1530). Later the office belonged to various noble families, who received it in exchange for leases, loans or as part of other financial settlements. Thus, in 1636 the Piast prince of Brzeg and Legnica,
Johann Christian (d. 1639), became the starost of Ostróda, having been granted this privilege in exchange for the dowry of his wife, Princess
Dorothea Sybille von Hohenzollern (d. 1625), which he never received.
PANORAMA OF THE TOWN FROM 1750 BY J. H. DEWITZ, CASTLE SHOWN TO THE LEFT
uring the wars fought in the 17th and 18th centuries between Poland and Sweden and Russia, the castle received new earth fortifications of the bastion type. By the end of this period, it no longer served as the seat of Prussian starosts, but was used as a military barracks and arsenal. Disastrous for it turned out to be the day of November 21, 1788, when, as a result of a large town conflagration, fire penetrated the castle, causing the explosion of powder barrels stored in its cellars. A tremendous explosion then completely destroyed the castle's eastern wing and the tower. They have never been reconstructed, and a material obtained from their demolition was used to rebuild the burned town. During repair works, the surviving castle wings were lowered by one storey and repurposed to house offices.
CASTLE ON POSTCARDS FROM THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY
VIEW OF THE CASTLE FROM EAST, 1920S
uring the Napoleonic wars, the castle was initially quartered by German-Prussian troops (King
Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia resided here between November 16 and 23, 1806). Later,
Napoleon Bonaparte himself was stationed here, and he lived at Ostróda castle from February 21 - April 1, 1807 occupying one of the rooms on the second floor. From Ostróda, a miserable village (mauvais village), as he contemptuously referred to it, he managed the state and commanded a large imperial army. In less than two months of his stay at the castle, Bonaparte wrote more than 300 letters (!). A memento of his visit to Ostróda is
a medal stamped by the Paris mint, as well as two paintings: one by Marie Nicolas Ponce-Camus Napoléon Ier accueillant les familles polonaises qui viennent se mettre sous sa protection and the other by Hippolyte Lecomte
Bivouac de l'armée française à Osterode. These works of art nowadays enrich the collection at Versailles, and their copies can be seen at Ostróda castle.
FRAGMENT OF NAPOLEON'S LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE GOVERNOR OF BERLIN, GEN. CLARKE, OSTRÓDA MARCH 2, 1807
MARIE NICOLAS PONCE-CAMUS "NAPOLEON 1ER ACCUEILLANT LES FAMILILLES POLONAISES QUI VIENNENT SE METTRE SOUS SA PROTECTION", 1807
n the early spring of 1945, the castle was destroyed by Soviet artillery. From then on, for the next few decades, the burnt-out, roofless walls remained abandoned falling into more and more ruin. It was only brought back to life by a comprehensive reconstruction carried out for fifteen years (1977-92), as a result of which the castle regained its Gothic features. However, neither the top floor nor the east wing, destroyed by an explosion in the 18th century, has been reconstructed. Then the building became a municipal cultural center.
he castle was located in the northwestern part of the town, from which a wall and moat separated it. It was built of brick on stone foundations, on a regular plan in a shape similar to a square with sides of 45x47 meters. The inner courtyard was surrounded by four wings, each 14 meters wide, three-story high and covered with a gabled ceramic roof. The representative south wing housed a Gothic chapel (in the eastern part) and a chapterhouse (in the western part) - both were accessed through pointed-arch, richly decorated portals. The other wings on the second floor housed commander's private chambers, dormitories, infirmary and guest rooms. The entrance to the castle led through a small gate tower attached to the front elevation of the west wing.
SOUTH WING, VIEW FROM THE COURTYARD
FRAGMENT OF THE WEST WING WITH A GATE / RECONSTRUCTED PORTAL IN THE NORTH WING
he castle chapel had as many as three altars: the Blessed Virgin Mary altar (unser frouen alter), the main altar (hogen alter) and the Holy Cross altar (heiligen cruczes alter). Its equipment included expensive chalices, silver pontifices and a gilded monstrance, as well as velvet, satin, damask and silk chasubles embroidered with gold and decorated with ambers and pearls.
As in many other Teutonic castles, various relics were kept in the Ostróda chapel, among them:
- a relic of Saint Sigismund (d. 524 - czum ersted eyne monstrancie von send Segemunt
- a relic of Saint Helena (d. 328) - eyne monstrancie send Helenen
- a finger of Saint Martin (d. 327) - 1 silbern vorgult finger sanct. Martini
- a relic of St. Catherine (d. ca. 300) - eyne monstrancie send Katherinen
- a head (or a fragment thereof) of Saint Hubert (d. 727) - silbern howpt mit sanct Huperten howpt ubergult
CASTLE CHAPEL OCCUPIED THE EASTERN (HERE LEFT) PART OF THE SOUTH WING
RECONSTRUCTED PORTALS: IN THE CHAPEL (LEFT) AND IN THE GROUND FLOOR OF THE SOUTH WING
he vaulted cellars and ground floors were intended for utility purposes. They housed food warehouses, equipment stores as well as a kitchen and larder (in the north wing), a brewery (in the east wing), a bakery, and an arsenal. The top floor of the castle served as defense and storage. Its great economic importance is evidenced by a reference from 1407 to the fact that commander of Ostróda, Friedrich von Zollern, disposed of a huge grain stock of more than 468 lasts (about 1,5 million liters!), kept in these storerooms at the upper castle and in neighboring granaries.
GROUND FLOOR PLAN OF THE CASTLE IN THE MIDDLE AGES ACCORDING TO CONRAD STEINBRECHT
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CASTLE AND MEDIEVAL TOWN, VIEW FROM THE NORTH
he toilet tower (dansker) was connected to the north wing of the castle. A porch supported by three pillars led to it from the refectory, but unlike other Teutonic castles, the tower and porch were presumably made of wood. Perhaps, though this is only a hypothesis, the castle had a main tower, incorporated into its east wing and destroyed when a gun powder store exploded in 1788. Little is also known about the economic part of the castle. Perhaps, due to lack of space, it did not have a fortified farm yard, and its function was taken by a grange located on the other (northern) bank of Drwęca river.
he squat shape of the castle now makes it look more like a Prussian fort than the former seat of Teutonic knights. From pre-war times (before the castle was destroyed), only
vaulted basement and ground floor have survived, as well as partially external walls up to the height of the second story. Interiors of the upper floors,
ogival windows and portals, as well as
the gate and wooden porches, are unfortunately the effect of reconstruction dating back to the second half of the 20th century. The castle is partially surrounded by a depression in the area, which is a remnant of the former moat.
IN THE CASTLE COURTYARD
oday the castle houses a small museum, a municipal cultural center and a library. Museum exhibits include artifacts related to the history and architecture of the stronghold, the past of Ostróda land and the stay in the town of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his staff.
Admission is free to the castle courtyard and paid to the museum.
We visit the museum on our own (but we can hire a guide). The exhibitions are small and can be viewed in 20-30 minutes.
Entrances with stairs lead to exhibition halls. There is a stair platform for wheelchair users.
Photography for private use is free (no flash allowed).
Animals are not allowed to enter or bring into the museum. This prohibition does not necessarily apply to the courtyard, which can be freely entered during the institutions opening hours.
In the museum we can see real treasures discovered by enthusiasts in the areas of ancient Pomezania. They include, among others, more than five hundred coins of German, Anglo-Saxon, Czech and Arabic origin, as well as more than one hundred Roman denarii with images of the emperors Vespasian, Trajan, Nerva, Lucius Verus, Septimius Severus, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and his children: Commodus, Sabina and Lucilla. The exhibition is supplemented by fragments of jewels from around 800 BC.
TREASURE FROM LUBAJNY
TREASURE OF ROMAN DENARII
he castle is located near Drwęckie Lake, on Mickiewicza Street. It is about one kilometer from the railway station to the castle (follow Słowackiego Street eastward).
The nearest larger parking lot is located at Tysiąclecia Państwa Polskiego Square (100 m) or at Pułaskiego Street (Lidl parking lot, 400 m).
Bicycles can be brought into the castle courtyard.
1. J. Dąbrowski, Ł. Szczepański: Listy z napoleońskiej kwatery głównej w Ostródzie..., OPH 2016-17
2. M. Garniec, M. Jackiewicz-Garniec: Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Studio Arta 2009
3. M. Haftka: Zamki krzyżackie w Polsce, 1999
4. L. Kajzer, J. Salm, S. Kołodziejski: Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Arkady 2001
5. I. T. Kaczyńscy: Zamki w Polsce północnej i środkowej, Muza SA 1999
6. M. Klat, J. Mykowski: Krzyżackie tajemnice: zamki, skarby, odkrycia, 2002
7. R. Sypek: Zamki i obiekty warowne państwa krzyżackiego, Agencja Wydawnicza CB 2000
8. S. Szczepański: Święte i Święci Pańscy w murach zamku ostródzkiego..., OPH 2/2016
9. A. Wagner: Murowane budowle obronne w Polsce X-XVIIw., Bellona 2019
BY LAKE DRWĘCKIE, A FEW DOZEN METERS WEST OF THE CASTLE
Morąg - relics of the Teutonic castle from the 14th century, 28 km
Lubawa - the ruined bishops' castle from the 14th century, 30 km Olsztynek - the Teutonic castle from the 14th century, rebuilt, 30 km Dąbrówno - relics of the Teutonic castle from the 15th century, 34 km
Bratian - relics of the Teutonic castle from the 14th century, 40 km Olsztyn - castle of the Warmia Chapter from the 14th century, 40 km
Przezmark - ruins of the Teutonic castle from the 14th century, 40 km Szymbark - castle ruins of the Pomezania Chapter from the 14th century, 42 km
Miłakowo- relics of the Teutonic castle from the 14th century, 43 km
Kurzętnik - the ruined bishops' castle from the 14th century, 47 km Nidzica - the Teutonic castle from the 14th/15th centuries, 58 km