Braniewo – Bishop’s Castle


   The seat of the bishops on the banks of the Pasłęka old riverbed was not the first castle in Braniewo. The previous castle was founded by the Teutonic Knights around 1240, but it was destroyed by the Prussians already a few years later. 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 Old Town. In the second half of the thirteenth century, the main residential house was built with an axially placed gateway. It led to a rectangular courtyard. The second gate from the south-west side led to the outer ward.
In the years 1320-1330 the castle was expanded. There is a possibility that perhaps the main residential house was originally located in the western part, it turned out to be too small at that time and it was decided to build a new one located more on the north – east. Originally a planned outer ward on the eastern side would become the main castle then, and the original courtyard would be a western outer ward. This could be explained by the unique layout of the castle in which the entrance led straight through the main house and the courtyard of the upper ward, then only to the outer ward, not the other way around.
As if it was not, in the first half of the fourteenth century, the site of a rectangular plan with dimensions of 55 x 80 meters with two courtyards was made. It was surrounded by a wall with two towers from the north and west, guarding the castle from the town side. A wicket gate was placed in the north-western curtain. The second passage was in the south-western wall. The castle was connected with the town walls, however, maintaining its autonomy thanks to its own fortified circuit and the gate from the side of the river. The main building, measuring 10 x 36.3 meters, housed the most important bishop’s rooms, including the castle chapel. It had a basement with two above-ground storeys. From the side of the courtyard there was a projection with a gateway passage. The entry was in the form of a ramp, led by the basement storey of the main house, in the fifteenth century, additionally expanded into a barbican form.
During the 14th century extension, the gatehouse tower was raised by placing a chapel in its upper part. It had a stellar shaped vault, supported by artificial stone corbels. In the western corner there were brick, spiral stairs that led to the gallery, which was circulating 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. 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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Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M.,  Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Sypek A., Sypek R., Zamki i obiekty warowne Warmii i Mazur, Warszawa 2008.