The construction of the Brodnica castle, then called Strasburg, began in the first half of the 14th century, probably in the 20’s. The works had to be carried out quickly and efficiently, as already in 1329 the castle was elected to the general chapter with the participation of Grand Master Werner von Orseln, and in 1329-1330 Poles did not undertake a siege of Brodnica, only destroyed the surrounding area. The castle was definitely completed in 1337, because between 1335 and 1337, the Teutonic commandry in Brodnica was formed. The first commander was Fryderyk von Spangenberg.
In 1388, the castle was to be damaged during a flood. After the Battle of Grunwald, the castle and the town surrendered to the Polish army, but in 1411 returned to the rule of the Order. In 1414, during the so-called Hunger War, a three-week unsuccessful siege led by Polish troops took place. Ultimately, a truce was signed under the castle walls.
In 1415, during the works led by Mikołaj Fellenstein, the castle was adapted for fighting with the use of firearms. According to the surviving inventories, the stronghold was stocked with nearly 70 horses, 150 crossbows, 13 heavy bombardments for stone balls and 28 light cannons for lead balls, as well as a smaller amount of gunpowder, helmets and a large amount of ammunition. Food lists from 1414 inform that in the basement and kitchen of the convent there were several types of beer, over 400 half-carcasses, 356 pikes and 210 cods, 270 barrels of oil, 32 barrels of fat, 180 portions of beef, 1150 sheep’s cheeses, 2 salted oxen, 2 barrels of herrings, 8 tons of groats, 55 tons of peas, 12 onion casks and 2 barrels of garlic.
The teutonic commanders ruled at the Brodnica castle until 1454, that is, until the town and the castle were captured by the Prussian Confederation, at the time of the outbreak of the anti-Teutonic uprising and the beginning of the thirteen-year Polish-Teutonic war. Brodnica was recaptured in 1461, but finally in 1463 it was taken by the Polish army and held until the end of the conflict. In 1466 Brodnica was granted to the Kingdom of Poland, and from 1481 it functioned as a starosty.
In the middle of the 16th century, the castle burnt together with the town. The reconstruction along with the erection of the new buildings was carried out by the then starost Rafał Działyński. The next reconstruction was carried out in the 17th century by Anna Wazówna, the sister of king Zygmunt III Waza. Unfortunately, serious damages was caused by the Swedish army, which led to the gradual demolition of the castle in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Only the main tower was saved, preserved by order of King Frederick William IV, after his visit to Brodnica in 1842.
The castle was situated on the eastern bank of the Drwęca River, on the outer side of its bend. It consisted of the seat of the convent – the upper ward, and the outer bailey adjacent to the south and east, thanks to which the northern part was the least protected side. A town developed to the south-east of the castle, fortified from around the mid-fourteenth century.
The upper ward was built on a square plan with dimensions of about 45×45 meters, made of bricks on a stone foundation. Its four wings were equipped with three corner, projecting, square turrets with side lengths of 4.7 meters, and from the south-west with a small dansker tower, protruding towards the river. On the northern side, instead of the turret, there was an almost 50-meter-high tower, 10.8 meters in diameter, separated from residential wings. From the south-east side, a castle gate adjoined the tower, preceded by a foregate and a bridge over the moat. The foregate was not covered with a roof. In terms of military technology, this meant switching from passive to active defense, defending the gate instead of retreating to the bergfried, when the rest of the castle was already in enemy hands.
Entrance to the main tower was only from the wall-walk porch. The timber porch also surrounded the entire tower, allowing to get around the entire perimeter of the castle. The tower is hexagonal in the lower part, above passes into a lofty octagon, crowned with an observation deck with an octagonal superstructure. In contrast to the main tower of the castle in Świecie, there is no machicolation on the upper porch of the tower, only battlement was used. The crown of the tower was a demonstration of the power of the Order, which was emphasized by white, plastered blendes on two levels, and a heraldic shield with a black cross. The lower parts of the tower were also decorated, covered with a diamond net made of black zendrówka bricks. The interior has been divided into 13 floors, three of which were chambers located below the entrance zone, serving as a prison and guard rooms. The storeys were connected with each other only by ladders (no stairs were used in the wall thickness).
The functions of individual rooms are difficult to recreate today, but the typical division into the economic ground floor, the representative and residential upper floors and the warehouse and defensive attic was certainly used. In the north-east range of the upper ward there were probably the main rooms of the convent: the refectory and the chapter house. In the south-east range there was the castle church of Corpus Christi and the Virgin Mary, while in the south-west range: chambers of the commander, senior Teutonic dignitaries, a chaplain and a dormitory. The representative function of the chambers located there is confirmed by large ogival windows. The sacristy was placed in one of the corner towers. In the ground floor, according to early modern description there was a kitchen. Most likely it was located in the south-west wing, because in the north-west relics of the hypocaustum furnace were discovered, heating the upper chambers with warm air. Another such furnace was in the castle basement under the refectory, while the other basement rooms served as storage. Access to them led directly from the courtyard through the cellar’s necks. In the north-east and south-east, they were rebuilt at the beginning of the 15th century and connected into one underground passage running along the eastern corner of the courtyard, to which the entrance led from the north.
The castle church was an aisless, five-bay structure covered with a stellar vault. It had a very rich sculptural decor: the capitals of vauls shafts, bosses and figures of the apostles were placed on the walls under the canopies, and the entrance portal was in an open porch, the walls of which were decorated with blind traceries and bas-reliefs.
The courtyard of the upper ward was surrounded by a brick, two-story cloister, the lower storey of which was supported by granite columns. At least at the north wing in the ground floor it had solid walls with rooms inside. The elevations of the castle were over 17 meters high. The entire upper ward was surrounded by low perimeter walls with one corner cut off, forming a zwinger of about 10 meters in width. From the south-west there was the aforementioned dansker, accessible from the main castle by means of a timber, suspended porch, and in the western corner a four-sided tower. Around 1415 it was (together with the tower at the outer bailey) transformed into a cylindrical form, adapted for the use of firearms. During this period or a little earlier, at the end of the fourteenth century, the commander’s house with the hypocaustum furnace was erected in the north-eastern part of the zwinger.
From the east and south, a large L-shaped outer bailey adjoined the upper ward. Two gates opposite each other led to it, and the perimeter of the walls was reinforced by four-sided towers in the northern and eastern corners. The town fortifications were not linked to the castle, because they were separated by a small stream. The economic buildings were attached to the inner faces of the outer bailey walls. According to early modern descriptions, it housed stables, a half-timbered carriage house and a brewery (malt house). There was probably also an infirmary, woodcarving house, footwear workshop, and bathhouse at the outer bailey.
The main tower, now acting as a viewpoint and the outline of the residential ranges of the upper ward have survived to the present day. The monumental scale of the castle can still be seen in the surviving corbels of the guard’s porch (wall-walk) and in the traces of the perimeter walls adjacent to the tower. In the castle’s basements there is an archeological museum, and in the season there are staged knights’ tournaments. The castle museum opening hours are available on the official website here.
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