Dzierzgoń – teutonic castle

History

    The Christburg castle, intended for the seat of the Teutonic convent, was built in 1248, and around 1250 a commandry was established in Dzierzgoń. According to the chronicler Peter of Dusburg, the name of the castle referred to Christmas, in which the Teutonic Knights captured the Prussian hillfort, on which they later erected the stronghold. In the fourth quarter of the 13th century, after the destructions of the war during the first Prussian uprising, the castle was rebuilt. Initial timber and earth fortifications were then replaced with brick ones, erected on a new, more defensive place. The settlement created next to the old stronghold was called Alt Christburg, or Stary Dzierzgoń. In 1249 at the new castle, a settlement was concluded between the Order and the Prussian tribes, which sanctioned the reign of the new rulers. The stronghold soon became the headquarters of the Teutonic commander, the first of which was Henry Stange in 1250-1254.
    
From 1309, the castle was occupied by an obersttrappier, a Teutonic dignitary responsible for equipping the Order with clothing. This meant that in the fourteenth century, the Dzierzgoń Castle was regarded as the largest armory alongside Malbork and the second food warehouse, after Brodnica Castle. In its fourteen farms large quantities of cattle were raised, especially horses, of which there were more than a thousand. The castle was also a strategically important point, the center of power in the densely populated Pomezania and the starting point for further conquests. The nearby Dzierzgoń river, which led the water route to the Vistula Lagoon and Baltic, was of significant importance.
   
In 1410, in the battle of Grunwald, the obersttrappier and the great commander of Dzierzgoń, Albrecht von Schwarzburg, was killed and the castle was captured without a fight by the army of king Jagiełło, who was going to Malbork. Describing the event, chronicler Jan Długosz, emphasized the richness of the castle pantries and the obersttrappier’s chamber, full of beautiful and expensive fabrics. The king supposedly liked the castle chapel, from which he ordered timber sculptures to be transported to the Kingdom of Poland. When leaving, the army burnt down the castle, which was then returned to the Teutonic Knights.
  
In 1414, the castle burnt down again, after being captured by Polish troops. Because of the great damages and perhaps of the problem of landslide on the steep slope on which the fortress was built, it was decided to transfer the commandry from Dzierzgoń to the nearby Przezmark. In 1456, the stronghold was further destroyed by the hands of the rebellious burghers from the anti-Teutonic Prussian Union. After the takeover by Poland in 1466 in the preserved rooms of the ruined castle, the seat of the starosty and the town court were located. Unfortunately, however, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the castle was dismantled and the castle grounds were designated for the park.

Architecture

    The castle was built on the top of a hill with very good defensive conditions. It consisted of two separate parts: a conventual upper ward and an outer ward, joined by a string of perimeter walls, reinforced with towers. The castle was irregular, built of brick on a foundation of stones. It did not yet had the form of regular, Teutonic, conventual castle, with three or four ranges closing the inner courtyard. It was surrounded by a defensive wall with a width of 3.2 meters, probably topped with battlement and a sidewalk for defenders. At the northern, smaller range of the upper ward, the main castle tower was built. It was several-storey and erected on a quadrangle plan, flanked by the entrance to the courtyard, which was placed in the next gatehouse.
    
The castle had at least two ranges, close to the rectangles, placed perpendicular to each other. The northern range was shorter, it was about 20 meters long, while the east one was over 40 meters, both (as well as the main tower) had a basements. From the courtyard side to both parts, brick, probably two-story galleries were added. Probably the representative rooms, such as the refectory or the chapel, were located on the first floor of a larger building.
    
The courtyard was paved, in its southern part there was a well, and nearby an unusual, interesting building on the plan of a pentagon, connected by an arcaded passage with a tower in the defensive wall. Perhaps it was a bathhouse with a bridge to the toilet tower, as channels for pouring water or impurities were discovered there.
   
Outer ward, which was led by two entrances, was located in the northern part of the hill, where the slope was milder. There were brick, free-standing buildings without basements, but with stone and ceramic floors. On the opposite side, on the smaller hill, in the 13th century, a cemetery was founded and a chapel was erected. Probably this place was connected with the castle by a timber footbridge over the ditch.

Current state

   The castle has not survived to this day. Only the fragments of the foundations and the pavement of the castle courtyard are left. During the excavation works, some architectural details were also unveiled in the form of sculptures, bosses, fragments of vault ribs and floor tiles. The area of the castle hill is accessible to visitors.

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bibliography:
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M.,  Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.