Człuchów was acquired by Teutonic Knights in 1312 for 250 fines from the sons of a certain Nicholas from Poniec family and Schlochau Castle, intended for the seat of the Teutonic commandry, began to be built in 1325, in the area where the main roads from north to south of the country and from west to east crossed. Important communication routes passed, serving trade development, as well as acting as important strategic roads. The proximity of the borders with Poland and the West Pomeranian principality demanded special strengthening of the new seat. Work on the construction lasted until around 1365, when the castle chapel was consecrated, and as a result Człuchów was one of the strongest Teutonic strongholds. The first commander who lived in the castle was from 1332 Gunthere von Snoze. Although Człuchów was the westernmost commandry of the Teutonic Knights, the castle played a very important military role, and was also an expression of the power of the order.
During the wars with Poland, the castle, due to its location, was a frequent base for armed expeditions of the Teutonic Knights. For this reason, the Polish army tried unsuccessfully to capture Człuchów in 1414 and 1433. It remained in the hands of the Teutonic Knights until the Thirteen Years’ War, when due to the weakening of the order by internal unrest, and above all due to the anti-Teutonic Prussian Union, Polish forces managed to capture and take over the castle in 1454. In the same year, the Teutonic Knights tried to recapture it unsuccessfully, and then in 1455 and 1456, but the Polish crew repelled the attacks. Further unsuccessful attempts to capture the castle were carried out in 1520 during the Prussian war and in 1563, when the castle was attacked by the Teutonic troops supported by Dytrych Schoenberg. However, these efforts were ineffective and until 1772 Człuchów was the seat of the Polish eldership.
During the Swedish wars of the 17th century, after several months of defense of the Polish crew under the leadership of starost Jakub Wejher, the castle was captured in December 1655 and severely damaged. From then on, its role as a strategic stronghold decreased, and the crew performed mainly police and order functions. During the first partition of Poland in 1772, Człuchów together with the castle was incorporated into the Prussian state, which officials allowed for the systematic demolition of the monument. After a great fire on the town in 1793, most of the damaged walls were demolished into building material, so that in 1811 the castle was already a ruin with only the main tower preserved. In the years 1824-1826 a chapel was built on the former north wing and demolition was stopped only in the second decade of the 19th century.
An area of great defensive value was chosen as the castle’s construction site, located on a high peninsula between the lakes Człuchów Duży and Człuchów Mały. The isthmus length was 1 km and the width was from about 100 to 500 meters. The whole complex was located at the base of the peninsula in its narrowest part and consisted of the upper castle, which was the seat of the commander and the Teutonic convent, and of three outer wards in the western, northern and eastern part, housing economic bases of the caommandry. The castle was surrounded by stone-brick walls, and additional defense was provided by three deep, artificially dug moats, crossing the peninsula and connecting with the waters of both lakes. These moats separated individual parts of the castle, which provided additional protection, especially because through two of the outer wards, west and central, led the way to the upper ward.
The upper castle was built on a square plan with a side of 47.5 meters. It consisted of four wings with cloisters from the courtyard side. In the north-west corner a huge, octagonal main tower stood 45 meters high and 5 meters thick at ground level. It was originally crowned with a steep roof, and the entrance to it was at the height of the fifth floor after crossing the drawbridge (16 meters above the level of the courtyard). Stairs placed in the thickness of the tower wall already led to the upper floors. In total, the main tower had as many as 11 floors above ground and two basements, where there was a well with drinking water in the event of a siege and a prison dungeon. The main entrance adjoined tower from the east, preceded by a neck, leading to a drawbridge. Probably the upper castle was devoid of corner turrets, but it had an external perimeter of the wall giving off a small zwinger area.
The main rooms of the upper castle were on the first floor: a two-storey chapel in the north wing, two three-bay rooms (maybe a dormitory) in the east, and a refectory in the west. In the shorter southern wing there could have been guest rooms and a passage to latrine tower, 25 meters forward towards the lake. The ground floor was occupied by a kitchen, arsenal, brewery and service rooms. Under each wing, there were also cellars, topped with barrel and pointed vaults, intended for warehouses and pantries. Entrances to them led from the courtyard down several stairs. At the top, on the other hand, there were warehouse and defensive attic typical for Teutonic castles, intended for storing grain, clothing and weapons, as well as equipped with galleries with loop holes, running around the perimeter walls. The castle was heated by a furnace at the level of the ground floor, from which warm air flowed into the chambers with ducts in the thickness of the wall.
The western ward was founded on a plan similar to a rectangle. It was separated from the upper castle by a deep and wide moat, and another moat was from the west, i.e. from the town side. The west ward was surrounded by a defensive wall with three towers, built on a square plan, located in the north-west and south-west corners, and more or less in the middle of the west curtain. Therefore, only the side facing the town was secured. Stables and a granary were located in this ward, later also an arsenal of weapons. There was also a well for watering horses here. Communication with the upper castle and the town was via drawbridges.
The northern ward was directly connected to the upper castle and was fortified with a wall touching the zwinger (outer) wall of the convent’s house (upper castle). The entrance to it from the west was protected by one or two four-sided towers, while from the upper castle it was separated by a ditch. Drawbridges were placed through the moats.
The eastern ward was the largest, occupying an area of 100×150 meters. Its perimeter walls were reinforced with four towers: three four-sided from the north and one cylindrical in the south-east corner. In the courtyard of the outer ward there were economic buildings, pigsties, barns, coach house, brewery, etc. In the southern wall there was a wicket gate leading to the bathhouse located on the lake. The steep slopes of the hill on the south side, to protect from landslides, were originally walled with erratic stones.
The main element of the castle which has survived to this day is the tower of the upper castle. In addition, you can see the ground floors, castle courtyard and cellars. In the place of the north wing there is now a 19th-century evangelical temple. Unfortunately, the recent revitalization led to another criminal move on the Polish monument. The main tower has two elevators and a modern staircase for lazy tourists.
Janocha H., Lachowicz F., Zamki Pomorza Środkowego, Koszalin 1990.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Torbus T., Zamki konwentualne państwa krzyżackiego w Prusach, Gdańsk 2014.