The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork or simply Malbork Castle is a 13th-century Teutonic castle and fortress located near the town of Malbork, Poland.
This 13th-century fortified monastery was substantially enlarged and embellished after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master moved here from Venice.
Occupying an area of 21 hectares (52 acres) Malbork Castle is the largest castle in the world measured by land area.
It is also the largest brick-built castle in the world and the largest brick building in Europe.
The castle was originally constructed by the Teutonic Knights, a German Roman Catholic religious order of crusaders, in a form of an Ordensburg fortress.
The Teutonic Knights named it Marienburg in honour of Mary, mother of Jesus.
The favourable position of the castle on the river Nogat allowed easy access by barges and trading ships arriving from the Vistula and the Baltic Sea.
This spectacular fortress bears witness to the phenomenon of the Teutonic Order state in Prussia. The state was founded in the 13th century by German communities of military monks who carried out crusades against the pagan Prussians and Lithuanians living on the south Baltic coast, as well as against the Christian Kingdom of Poland. It reached its greatest influence in the 14th century.
During the Thirty Years’ War, in 1626 and 1629 Swedish forces occupied the castle.
Since the second half of the 18th century, Malbork Castle has provided one of the major sources of fascination with European medieval history and its material remains.
The castle was meticulously restored in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the conservation techniques now accepted as standard were evolved here.
With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in the early 1930s, the Nazis used the castle as a destination for annual pilgrimages of both the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. The Teutonic Castle at Marienburg served as a blueprint for the Order Castles of the Third Reich built under Hitler’s reign. In 1945 during World War II combat in the area, more than half the castle was destroyed.
Following severe damage in the Second World War it was once again restored, using the detailed documentation prepared by earlier conservators.
UNESCO designated the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork a World Heritage Site in December 1997.
Malbork Castle is also one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments, as designated on 16 September 1994.
Nowadays, the castle hosts exhibitions and serves as a museum.