Braniewo – Bishop’s Castle


   The residence of the bishops above the shore of the old Pasłęka riverbed was not the first castle in Braniewo. The former castle or watchtower, founded The Teutonic Knights in the place of the settlement of the Warms tribe around 1240 years. It was to be the basis for further expansion, stopped as a result of the first Prussian uprising in 1242. After peace in 1249, the locals pledged to build a church in the settlement of Brusebergue, and colonization could continue. In 1250, colonists from Lübeck established Braniewo on the river island, which the first bishop of Warmia, Anselm, chose as his seat. This settlement received town privilege in 1254, but was completely destroyed along with the Teutonic castle during the second Prussian uprising. In 1261, the leader of the Warms tribe named Glappo attacked it, and the defenders left Braniewo and went to Elbląg after a short fight. When the uprising was suppressed, the colonists returned trying to rebuild the settlement, but the Old Prussians destroyed it again in 1277. This event influenced the decision to move the castle and the settlement to a new, more defensive place in the upper part of Pasłęka in 1279.
   A new brick castle was built in the second half of the 13th century during the reign of bishop Henry Fleming. Braniewo after the creation of the Warmia diocese in 1243, was handed over to the bishops and the chapter, and the first bishop, Anselm, chose it as its headquarter and founded the cathedral. After the destruction during the second Prussian uprising, the chapter moved to Frombork, where the capital of the diocese was also moved, and Braniewo was only the seat of a burgrave, responsible for the castle and crew and having certain court and council privileges. Lands belonged to the castle in its immediate vicinity, also mill on Pasłęka river, a town bathhouse, taverns and tributes from townspeople and dependent villages provided income.
   At the end of the fourteenth century, the castle was twice, unsuccessfully attacked by townsmen against the episcopal authority. After unsuccessful attempts, the defensive wall had to be repaired at his own expense by the order of Teutonic Grand Master Konrad von Jungingen. The wall and towers from the town side were also damaged in 1454, during the assault of the Prussian Confederation, but the castle was finally only plundered and then handed over to the mercenary knights of the Polish king. Soon they turned out to be so troublesome, that in 1461, the burghers handed the castle together with the town to bishop Paul Legendorf. Once again, the castle was conquered in 1478 by the army of the bishop of Warmia, Nicholas Tungen, not accepted by the Polish king Casimir the Jagiellonian. It began a two-year War of the Priests, devastating surrounding areas. Military operations also affected the castle in the first half of the 16th century during the last Polish-Teutonic war. The castle and the town were occupied in 1520 by the army of Albrecht Hohenzollern and returned after five years, as a result of Prussian homage.
In the 14th and 15th centuries the castle underwent a medieval expansion, and in the 17th century the Swedes, occupying Braniewo, built ramparts and bastions on its foreland. In this form, the castle survived until the mid-nineteenth century when it was transformed into a school, and then in 1873-1874 most of the buildings were demolished. Another demolitions were made between 1928-1930, and the final destruction of the remains of the castle and the town was brought by World War II.


   The castle was erected in the eastern corner of the Braniewo Old Town, so it was surrounded on three sides by the town’s land, and on the south it adjoined the town walls and the moat. On the west side, the castle was adjacent to the St. Catherine church, and on the eastern side, near the castle and the town, the Pasłęka River flowed further into the Vistula Lagoon.
Initially, it was believed that in the second half of the 13th century, the main residential building with an axially placed gate passage was built, leading to a rectangular courtyard, while the second gate from the south-west led to the outer bailey. However, there is a possibility that the main residential house was originally located in the western part of the castle, turned out to be too small after some time and it was decided to build a new one, located more to the east. The originally planned outer ward on the eastern side would then become the main ward. This could explain the unique layout of the castle, in which the entrance led directly through the main house and the courtyard of the upper ward, then only to the outer bailey, and not the other way around. Changes in the castle layout could have taken place as a result of the destruction caused by the townspeople and the reconstruction carried out around 1396. On this occasion, the greatest disadvantage of the castle was also corrected, i.e. the lack of an access independent of the town, which could be dangerous in the period of a worsening of relations between the bishop and his subjects.
   Finally, at the end of the fourteenth century, a rectangular castle with dimensions of 55 x 80 meters was developed with two courtyards connected by a four-sided gate tower, located entirely in the eastern part of the castle. The entire complex was surrounded by a wall with two four-sided towers from the north and west, guarding the castle from the town side. A postern was placed in the north-west curtain, and the second passage was in the south-west wall. The castle was connected with the town walls, while maintaining its autonomy thanks to its own fortified circuit and the gate from the river side. The main building, measuring 10 x 36.3 meters, housed the most important bishop’s rooms. It had a basement with two overground storeys. From the side of the courtyard there was an avant-corps with a gate passage. The entrance was a ramp leading through the basement of the main house, in the 15th century it was additionally extended from the field side to the form of a barbican.
   During the fourteenth-century expansion, the gatehouse between the courtyards was raised, chapel was placed in its upper part and an annex from the south was added, probably serving as a chancel and a link with the castle house. In the northern and southern walls there were arrowslits enabling firing at the space on the eastern side of the curtain wall. A decorative tooth frieze above the gateway was made in the eastern facade of the building, the newer one, the upper part of the tower had more decorative facades from the east, and the entrance from the external wooden porch to the spiral staircase connecting its upper floors was placed in the perhaps originally safer western facade. These features also suggest that the main part of the castle mentioned above could initially be located on the west side, and the outer bailey was to the east. The chapel in the gatehouse had a stellar vault inside, supported by artificial stone consoles. In the western corner, there were the aforementioned brick, spiral stairs that led to a gallery running around the interior, formed in the thickness of the tower walls.

Current state

   Today, the only remaining element is the gatehouse tower, which stood between the main castle and the outer bailey and fragments of the walls of the zwinger and southern foregate. On the tower you can still see the remains of window openings and the former passage. All of them are walled up, so there is no entrance to the tower.

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