Gdańsk – teutonic castle

History

   Teutonic castle in Gdańsk was built around 1340-1343 on the site of the early medieval hillfort of the Pomeranian dukes at the initiative of the Grand Master Dietrich von Altenburg. It was the seat of the Teutonic commander and was an important administrative and military complex. The duties collected at the castle, as well as the commander’s economic activity, brought enormous income to the Order, at the expense of the merchant city. The Gdańsk teutonic commander, as a member of the great masters council, held an important position in the Teutonic Order hierarchy. The castle was also an architectural symbol of the power of the Order, intended to remind of the teutonic rule of the Gdańsk to the patriciate and foreign buyers coming to the city. When the anti-Teutonic uprising broke out in 1454, the castle commander Konrad Pfersfelder surrendered the castle, and the inhabitants of Gdańsk immediately began to demolish it. This can be explained either by the need to destroy the symbol of the Teutonic Knights, and by wisely liquidating the stronghold which in the future could threaten the interests of the city.

Architecture

   The castle was located northeast of the Gdańsk Main Town and southeast of the Old Town. It was erected on the plan of an irregular trapezium with the longest side adjacent to the Motława river, and the shortest – northern bordering the Old Town. The upper castle was erected in the south-eastern part of the complex. It was a regular building, probably four-sided and four-winged, with a side length of about 52 meters. In the corners there were massive towers on a square plan with sides of 8.5×8.5 meters. The north-east tower had larger dimensions with sides 10.9×10.9 meters long and probably served as a bergfried  or rather a watchtower or bell tower. It also flanked the entrance to the upper castle in the northern wing, additionally protected by the foregate. In the northern wing there was also probably a richly decorated castle church. From the east there was probably a dansker tower with a porch over the moat. The upper castle was surrounded by a zwinger wall with corner towers. The north-eastern tower had dimensions 6.5 x 6.5 meters, perhaps there was in it a chain used to close the port of Gdańsk.
  
From the north and west, the castle was adjoined to an outer bailey, surrounded by a double moat. The discovered ramparts suggest that it was divided into two separately fortified zones. The main gate was located on the western side and led to the Gdańsk Old Town. Another gate probably led to the south, to the Motława embankment, and the last one led through a trapezoidal tower to the port on the Vistula river. In the south – west corner of the castle there was a cylindrical tower adapted to use firearms. At the end of the 15th century it was called the Tower on the Fish Market, then the Swan Tower and after rebuilding it became a defensive element of the Gdańsk Main Town. In its vicinity, in the western part of the Motława river, there were also many buildings that can be identified with representative buildings, probably the commander’s apartment or guest rooms of the Grand Master. It was a two-bay building connected to a tower, latrines, a gate and a kitchen with a well. Behind the cover of the stronghold there was a port controlled by the crew of the fortress. If necessary, it was closed by a chain dragged by the Motława river from the castle to the watchtower located on Ołowianka Island.

Current state

   Today only a small fragment of the zwinger wall with a battlement and an external wall of a rectangular tower, embedded in the façade of the house at ulica Wartka, have been preserved from the castle. It is also possible that the Swan Tower was created on the site of one of the towers of the castle.

show castle’s outer bailey wall on map

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bibliography:
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Torbus T., Zamki konwentualne państwa krzyżackiego w Prusach, Gdańsk 2014.