Bezławki – Teutonic Castle

History

   Bäslack Castle probably began to be erected simultaneously with the founding of the neighboring village Bezławki, which location act was issued in 1371 by the Balga commander Ulrich Fricke. After grubbing up the forest and planting the area, proper construction works began since 1377. Castle served as the seat of the bailiffs subordinate to the teutonic pfleger in Kętrzyn. It was also a support for the Teutonic expeditions against the Lithuanians and secured the newly colonized areas. In historical sources, it appeared in 1402, when the great commander Wilhelm von Helfenstein, returning with the knights from the expedition to Vilnius, stopped in Bezławki. Švitrigaila (Świdrygiełło), the youngest brother of Polish and Lithuanian king Władysław Jagiełło, who wanted to gain power in Lithuania, also took part in the expedition. He stayed in Bezławki until 1404, taking part in diplomatic and military games.
  
After the period of Polish-Teutonic struggles in the 15th century, the castle lost its importance. In 1583, it was transformed into a Protestant church, changing the interior layout of the main building. In the years 1726–1730 a western tower was built to serve as a church belfry, and a new porch was built. After World War II, the building was taken over by Catholics, which was associated with another rebuilding of the interior of the main castle house.

Architecture

   The castle was built on a lonely hill dominating the surrounding area. Its main element was a house measuring 12 x 25 meters, originally housing five floors and an attic. It was built of brick in the Flemish bond, on the foundation of erratic stones reaching the first floor. The raw facade with a small number of windows was decorated with blind panels located on two levels. The lower ones at the height of the second storey were closed by a semicircular arch, the higher ones at the level of the third and fourth storeys were ogival. The lower niches emphasized the corners and the main entrance to the building, while the higher ones were placed at equal intervals, starting from the corners. The building was covered with a gable roof with two stepped gables from east and west, filled with blendes and topped with pinnacles.
   The interior layout of the rooms is unknown, but it can be assumed by analogy that the lower two floors were divided into three parts. Floors were separated by wooden ceilings, only basements probably had brick barrel vaults. The lowest floor probably had economic functions, the upper floor was occupied by representative and residential chambers, and the next single-space floors had storage and defense functions. The predominance of warehouse space may indicate the specific role of the castle, which could play the role of the supply, necessary during Teutonic armed expeditions. On the first floor there was probably a living room or refectory from the west, because on this level the western relics of the wooden latrine have survived. The castle chapel could be located from the east. Depending on the storey, different types of window openings were used, but the lowest one did not have them at all. Above it were placed narrow slits, about 17 cm wide, embedded in shallow recesses. On the third and fourth floors, the windows were already slightly wider. The highest floor windows, under the eaves of the roof, were quite wide, closed with a semicircular arch. The entrance to the building was located from the south, that is from the courtyard. It is possible that it was preceded by a type of brick annex.
   The castle courtyard measuring 42 x 52 meters was surrounded by the defensive wall, equipped with three shallow half-towers and two corner four-sided towers, also open from the inside, which was more like city fortifications rather than the fortifications typical of the Teutonic castles. This may suggest the seasonality of the use of the towers and the lack of adaptation of the courtyard to long-term defense. The courtyard was a kind of fortified camp and a place of shelter for the surrounding population during the invasion. In view of the small permanent crew of the castle, only in such cases could it be ensured filling with defenders of such a large defensive circuit.
   According to the latest research, the entrance to the courtyard was located at the main building, on its eastern side. Thanks to this, it was protected by the strongest element of the castle and was on the side least exposed to the enemy’s attack, because it was placed at the exit of the road leading from Reszel, while the attack could be expected primarily from the opposite side. The enemy had to circle the object before got under the gate and could not go unnoticed.

Current state

   The Bezławki Castle is currently the best preserved stronghold of the Teutonic Order from among a smaller, lower-position buildings. The main castle’s house has preserved its gothic appearance, there are also visible relics of the perimeter wall, unfortunately unsecured and decaying. The castle currently functions as a church, and admission to its area is free.

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bibliography:
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M.,  Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Wółkowski W., Architektura zamku w Bezławkach [w:] Bezławki: ocalić od zniszczenia, wyniki prac interdyscyplinarnych prowadzonych w latach 2008-2011, Gdańsk 2013.