Dąbrówno, that is the former Gilgenburg, was founded by the Teutonic Order in 1326 on the isthmus between two lakes: Dąbrowa Mała and Wielka. The original name was Ilienburg and probably derived from the Prussian word ilgis, which meant “long”. Probably it referred to long lakes and a narrow strip of land between them, on which the settlement was located. The rapid development of the town, lying on the trade route between Mazovia and the Baltic Sea, resulted in the construction of defensive walls around the mid-14th century. However, it did not protect the townspeople from the successful assault of Polish troops under the command of king Władysław Jagiełło in 1410. A timber, small castle was also conquered, which was the seat of the Teutonic vogt. To warn the others, the town was completely plundered and destroyed.
After these events, the Teutonic Knights erected a new, brick castle adjoining the town from the north. As a result of the provisions of the Second Peace of Toruń in 1466, Dąbrówno remained at the Teutonic Order. Due to the difficult financial situation and the inability to pay wages, in 1475 the Order gave the castle and the town in a pledge to the knight Georg von Loeben, commander of the mercenary troops. After a few years, in 1488 Georg gave it to a Pole, Mikołaj Wilko, and then the town returned to the Order. After the secularization of the Teutonic Order, the starosty was created in Dąbrówno. From the second half of the seventeenth century, this office was held by the Finckensteins, who in the 17th century rebuilt the castle into an early modern, comfortable residence. At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was already neglected, and the destruction of the town and the castle was brought by the Second World War.
The town was founded on a narrow isthmus between the lakes: Dąbrowa Wielka and Dąbrowa Mała. It formed a quadrilateral in plan with the longer sides roughly on the east-west line, in such a way that the fortifications almost completely blocked the land, forcing the need to pass through the town, unless you wanted to avoid large lakes. They also acted as a moat, and after digging two ditches on the northern and southern sides of Dąbrówno, an irrigated moat was also obtained in the other directions. The defensive wall was reinforced with towers – four-sided, open from the inside and fully extended by the face of the adjacent curtains.
The Teutonic castle was erected in the northern corner of the town, near the river dividing the isthmus. It was a simple building on a square plan of 25 x 25 meters. It consisted of a residential house with dimensions of 13.8 x 25,8 and a defensive wall forming a small, inner courtyard. The entrance to the castle led through the gate in avant-corps of the wall. At least in one corner (the northern one) it had a half tower, open from the inner side, similar to that placed on a small castle in Bezławki. The castle was later joined with town walls, its gatehouse tower became the town gate, known as Smith Tower or German Tower.
The fortified outer ward was located outside the town walls on the north-eastern side, on the very shore of the lake. On the southern side, the entrance to the town was provided by the Polish Gate. The parish church could also fulfill defensive functions, located near the town fortifications in the north-west part of Dąbrówno.
Dąbrówno town walls have been preserved on quite a long length, but only up to the height of the foundations. The best preserved element is the so-called Bell Tower. It owes its name to the rebuilding to the church belfry in the 17th century. Only relics of foundations has remained from the brick castle.
Czubiel L., Domagała T., Zabytkowe ośrodki miejskie Warmii i Mazur, Olsztyn 1969.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.