he castle was probably built in the 1370s by the parish priest of the Pomezanian chapter Henry of Skarlin. An inscription made of glazed ceramic tiles, which was once placed above the gate, indicated the founder of the stronghold. Its text was as follows: HEC PORTA CONSTRUCTA EST ANNO DOMINI MCCCLXXXVI TEMPORE FRATRIS HENRICI DE SKARLIN PREPOZITI, which can be translated as: The gate was erected in the year of our Lord 1386 under the reign of brother Henry of Skarlin - the provost. Some historians, however, present a slightly different opinion, according to which the construction of the castle began much earlier, perhaps even in the 13th century, and the above mentioned text refers to the final phase of this project. Szymbark castle originally served as the residence of a high-ranking provost who was a member of the wealthy episcopal chapter.
EAST WING WITH ENTRANCE GATE
he location of the castle was quite unusual, more than 40 kilometers from the headquarters of the chapter (town of Kwidzyn), far away from the larger urban centers, but characterized by excellent natural conditions for its defense. We assume that the first stage of the construction works was completed in 1386 and included the full perimeter of the walls equipped with ten towers, a gate tower and a drawbridge leading to the courtyard. However, two of the planned towers were never completed, but the intention to build them is evidenced by the remains of foundations in the western wall. In this phase of the castle's operating, the residence premises and the utility rooms were concentrated in the western part of the courtyard.
THE COAT OF ARMS OF THE VON POLENZ FAMILY, FORMER OWNERS OF THE CASTLE
t the beginning of the 15th century the castle was modernized in such a way that it became much more residential. The spatial arrangement was then enlarged by erecting the eastern part of the southern wing and raising the northern part of the western wing, where the refectory and castle kitchen were located. As part of the Gothic transformation, the outer walls were raised by 2 to 4 metres, the corner towers received polygonal or cylindrical tops, and the gate was extended. In the first half of the 15th century the castle was not only the seat of the provost, but also the place where German settlers stayed. It is also worth mentioning the longer visit of the bishops Gerhard Stolpmann and Hans Marienau, who stayed here in 1421 to supervise the scriptorium preparing documents for the planned trial between the Polish state and the Order.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CASTLE AT THE TURN OF 14TH AND 15TH CENTURIES ACCORDING TO A. MACUR
he castle in Szymbark in the early 15th century was a spacious and comfortable place for the inhabitants, but its defensive features were not impressive. As a result, during the Thirteen Years' War waged between Poland and the Teutonic Order, the fortress was captured several times and finally - destroyed. Following the peace of Toruń, it remained within the borders of the Teutonic state and was lifted from ruins and slightly modernized within few years. Szymbark had a great importance at that time as the main residence of the Pomezanian cathedral parish priests, as evidenced by documents of the Grand Master from 1466, in which it was described as probist Kain Schonberg and our house and our castle.
THE AUSTERE, UNDECORATED WESTERN CURTAIN OF THE CASTLE WALLS
uring the last Polish-Teutonic war the castle wasn't besieged. Although the Polish troops under the command of Stanisław Kostka arrived, but thanks to the fact that the parish priest Mikołaj Schönborn prudently opened the gates, no fights took place. The consequence of the war lost by the Order was its secularization and huge territorial losses for the benefit of Poland. The last Pomezanian bishop Erhard von Queiss (d. 1529) converted to Lutheranism and bishop's estates formally were handed over to the Prussian prince
Albrecht Hohenzollern (d. 1568). However, in practice he still managed them, but not as a clergyman but as an official of the new secular state. After his childless death, the starosty and the castle received the first Evangelical bishop Georg von Polenz (d. 1550), who didn't live in Szymbark, but in distant Bałga, which may suggest that the castle was not in good condition then.
THE CASTLE IN THE DRAWING FROM THE 1. HALF OF THE XIX CENTURY
is son Teophilus von Polenz (d. 1599) took over the estate in 1550. After him Szymbark was managed by grandson Albrecht von Polenz (d. 1619), who, already having the hereditary right to own the estate, between 1570-90 rebuilt the castle in the Renaissance style. The effect of the construction works was a very far-reaching degradation of its defensive features in favour of changes aimed at improving everyday functionality and aesthetics. The western wing has been completely transformed - since then it housed the comfortable living rooms. Corner towers in the east wing received stucco interior decoration and Renaissance fireplaces, while residential buildings were decorated with ornamental tops. There were also transformations in the spatial layout of the clock tower, but the most important change from the point of view of defensive features loss of the castle was replacement of the wooden drawbridge with a brick bridge.
LITHOGRAPH BY DORGERLOH FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE XIXTH CENTURY, THE CASTLE SEEN FROM THE SOUTH
he von Polentz family ruled the Szymbark estate for 121 years. In 1653 it was bought by Jonas zu Eulenburg (d. 1667), and fourteen years later the widow of the deceased owner pledged it to her son-in-law Theodor von Schlieben (d. 1695), a Kurland voivode, who became a full owner of the property in 1670. After the death of Theodor, in 1699 his son Ernst Sigismund (d. 1741) sold the castle. The buyer was the starosts of Dąbrówno and Iława
Ernst Finck von Finckenstein (d. 1717), called a wealthy sheepherd, because the von Finckenstein family owed their enormous wealth and high social position to the breeding of these animals and wool trade in particular. Ernst permanently resided in Dąbrówno, in the palace annexed to the old Teutonic castle, and never moved to Szymbark. His son Albrecht Christoph Finck (d. 1730) was the first to do so, and in 1700-30 he rebuilt the castle in the Baroque style in order to adapt it to his own and his family's needs.
ROMANTIC VIEW OF THE CASTLE FROM THE 2. HALF OF THE XIXTH CENTURY
Von Finckenstein is a count family of Westphalian and Alemanian origin. Their estates were concentrated mainly in Upper Prussia, in the starosty of Iława, Ostróda and Dąbrówno. Since the second half of the 16th century they have been gathering offices and landed estates, that in the 19th century covered an area of 14,000 hectares. The increase in financial power of the family was accompanied by an active participation in the Hanseatic League of North European trading cities, and also by a career as a civil servants and military officers. From the 18th century existed two separated lines of Finckensteins: the older one in Szymbark and Dąbrówno, and the younger one, living in the
FAMILY PORTRAIT OF THE CASTLE OWNERS, 1910
n years 1857-58 Ludwig Finck von Finckenstein (d. 1863) rebuilt the south wing of the castle and connected it functionally with the wing located in the south-eastern corner. The interiors have been redecorated and ornamented, and adapted to representative rooms, two libraries and a theatre hall called the Greek Chamber. The vast garden around the castle and the lake were transformed into a landscape park and a small menagerie. The cylindrical staircase, added to one of the towers in the southern wall, facilitated access to them. In addition, at the western wall of the residence, the owners arranged tennis courts.
ONE OF THE CASTLE INTERIORS ON A 1920S PHOTOGRAPH
he subsequent and last modernization of the castle (1904-30) was aimed at adapting it to the use of modern technological achievements: electrification and telephones, but also included a decoration changes and repair of the north wall and the bridge. These works were carried out strictly according to the instructions and under the supervision of
Bernard Schmid, the conservator of Malbork castle. As the author emphasized, the main idea accompanying the restoration was to preserve the castle in its contemporary shape, and only gently to mitigate the slightly exaggerated form, which was the result of a romantic reconstruction from the 19th century.
THE SOUTHERN WING IN 1915 AND ITS RUIN IN 2019
he members of the von Finckenstein family lived in Szymbark almost until the end of the Second World War, leaving it on 21 January 1945 for fear of the 2nd Belarusian Red Army offensive. And although the direct fights between Germans and Soviets luckily avoided the castle, after robbing its interiors in April that year the soviets soldiers burned it, as well as the nearby palace in Kamieniec. According to the eyewitness of those events, they had to set it on fire as many as twice, because the first time the fire didn't get too close to the walls. When the castle was taken with fire for good, the temperature was supposedly so high that the tiles were found after even at the railway station in Ząbrowo. Only the remnants of the tower and external walls remained of this disaster.
VIEW OF THE CASTLE (SOUTHERN WING) IN 1910 AND CURRENTLY
n the 1960s, some security works began, including roofing the clock tower and the gate building. The interior was cleared of rubble as well. Unfortunately, soon afterwards, the volunteers irresponsibly dismantled the remnants of the south wing. In 1988 the ruin was taken over by the foundation Widzieć Muzyką with the intention of rebuilding it and opening here a centre for education of blind children from all over Europe. After several years of the foundation's activity, as a result of which the western wall was partially reconstructed and the vaults in the corner towers were reconstructed, the renovation plan collapsed probably due to financial reasons. In 1997 the ruin was bought by a private owner and since then it has been abandoned. In 2018 it was sold again. The new owner announced that he intends to rebuild the castle and put a hotel in it.
THE EASTERN WING SEEN FROM THE COURTYARD, CONDITION BEFORE THE 2ND WORLD WAR
AND AT THE BEGINNING OF THE XXIST CENTURY
In 1995, the ruins of Szymbark castle were used by the famous German director
Volker Schlöndorff for The Ogre movie to shoot the scenes with the conquest of Kaltenborn castle by Soviet troops, as well as the scenes with the camping of Hitlerjugend members. The main role of Abel Tiffauges, a man with the psyche of a child fascinated by the power of the Third Reich, was played by the actor
John Malkovich. For the time of filming he stayed in nearby Iława town, where he rented the entire central part of the hotel for himself, his wife, two children and a nanny.
To this day, the ruins hide modest relics of the film, such as the wooden window frames in the eastern wall or the von Polenz coat of arms, renovated for the purposes of film production.
THE CASTLE IN THE 1930S, FROM THE TOP: VIEW FROM THE WEST, WESTERN WING ON THE COURTYARD SIDE
he castle was built on a plan similar to a rectangle (75x92-95), presumably at the site of an early medieval Prussian stronghold, so the courtyard level is about 9 meters higher than the surrounding level. Ten towers are integrated into the brick walls and protrude slightly in front of them: there are four corner towers and six curtain towers. The original height of walls was 2 to 4 metres lower than the current one, which is well visible in the northern corner towers, which are rectangular in their base and topped with a cylindrical and polygonal superstructure. An entrance to the courtyard led from the east on a wide embankment rising upwards, and further over the castle moat on a wooden drawbridge, replaced in the 17th century with a brick arcade bridge, and then through a gate building.
PLAN OF THE CASTLE FROM 1885, DIE BAU- UND KUNSTDENKMALER DER KREISES LOBAU:
1. ENTRANCE GATE, 2. SOUTHERN WING, 3. WESTERN WING, 4. STABLES, 5. KITCHEN, 6. RIDING HALL, 7. OFFICE, 8. MAIN TOWER
he gate is adjoined by a 24-metre-high, four-storey main tower, sometimes called the clock tower. It is interesting to note the contrast in the use of the space of it, where the first floor, vaulted and decorated with colorful polychromes, served as a chapel, and underneath it a 10-metre deep prison cellar was situated. Four winged buildings adjoined the curtain wall from the inside. Their layout, height, interior arrangement and style of external decoration were changing over time. It can be assumed, however, that the basic functions were performed by the western wing, where initially residential chambers were located, as well as a chapel and a refectory, and from the mid-15th century also by the southern wing, with the most representative rooms in the castle.
THE EASTERN WING, IN 1885 'DIE BAU- UND KUNSTDENKMALER DER KREISES LOBAU', AND CURRENTLY
nly perimeter wall with towers, as well as gate and stone arcade bridge survived the war and subsequent damages. The internal and partition walls of residential buildings have been preserved in their remnants, which is mainly due to irresponsible decisions about the successive demolition made during the communist era. An unattended park, once a landscape park, is now actually a forest with a still impressive trees. There are also no traces of former glory like the alleys surrounding the castle and evenly trimmed lawns, which turned into a meadow. Since the ruin is in private hands (1997-), not much has changed here, although perhaps its inaccessibility over the years saved interiors from vandalism.
IN THE CASTLE COURTYARD, PHOTOS FROM 2004
The castle can only be viewed from the outside.
You can come here with your dog. The surroundings of the castle is an attractive place for walks.
Friendly place to fly: no local air corridors and no major buildings.
VIEW FROM SOUTHEAST, 2019
AND THIS IS HOW THE CASTLE LOOKED 100 YEARS EARLIER
he ruin is located in the western part of the village, on the shores of Szymbarskie Lake. Driving by car along road No. 521 from Iława (direction Prabuty, Susz) after about 9 kilometers
you should turn left and a few hundred meters away - by the chapel -
turn left again, and then drive straight until you reach the grocery store,
where you should turn right. It is also convenient to get to the castle by train. Then you should get off at the Ząbrowo station and from there head north-east. After about 200 metres the asphalt road runs left into the village, and towards the east there is a dirt road marked as a bicycle trail. Continuing the course set by the trail you will reach your destination after 20 minutes.
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GREEN TOURIST TRAIL LEADS TO THE CASTLE
Castles nearby: Prabuty - the relics of Pomezanian bishops' castle from the 13th century, 24 km
Lubawa - the relics of Chełmno bishops' castle from the 14th century, 32 km
Bratian - the relics of Teutonic castle from the 13/14th century, currently the mill, 38 km Dzierzgoń - the relics of Teutonic castle from the 13th century, 38 km
Przezmark - the ruins of Teutonic castle from the 14th century, 44 km