The beginnings of the castle in Gniew (Mewe) reach back to the 80s of the 13th century. Earlier, there was a Pomeranian hillfort here, which in 1276 was transferred by the Pomeranian prince Sambor to the Teutonic Order. It has been accepted so far, that in 1283, the Teutonic Knights erected a temporary stronghold, situated on the edge of the Vistula escarpment, but archaeological research did not reveal traces of the wooden buildings. In the same year, the first commander, Dietrich from Spey, is also mentioned. Probably after 1290, works on a castle complex on square plan were started. After the completion of 40 years of construction, it was, next to the castle in Człuchów and the castle in Gdańsk, the most powerful castle of the Teutonic Knights on the left bank of the Vistula.
At the beginning of the third decade of the fifteenth century, Gniew was temporarily the residence of the former Grand Master Michael Kuchmeister. At that time, the castle complex was reconstructed, bricking up the former entrance gate and building a new one from the east and enlarging the chapel.
After 1466, the castle became the seat of the Polish starost. In the 17th century, it was destroyed by the Swedes, who occupied Gniew twice. The more successful times came when the starost belonged to the later king, Jan Sobieski. Then the so-called hunting lodge next to the main tower and the so-called The Marysieńka Palace, were erected. They used older, gothic buildings. After the first partition of Poland, in the castle, the Prussians placed barracks and then a grain warehouse. Inter-storey divisions and vaults were liquidated then. In the 19th century, the main tower was demolished and the buildings were transformed into a prison. A number of works were carried out at the time to make partial regothisation. In 1921, the castle burnt down, and restoration work was undertaken only in 1969.
Built on a high riverside scarp, the upper castle in its final shape was a regular complex on a square plan with a side length of 49 meters, with three corner towers and a huge, octagonal bergfried from the north-east with a height of 48m. The entrance had a high arched niche for the portcullis and was located on the axis of the southern wing. On the first floor of this wing there was a chapel with stellar vault and a chapter house, separated by a small chamber. In the west wing there was a refectory, and in the eastern dormitory or infirmery. The purpose of the chambers in the northern part is not fully clear, they could serve as a flat and a commander office. In the ground floor there were economic rooms, and cellars below them. The courtyard was surrounded by cloisters, in the ground floor there were masonry, higher wooden ones, supported on huge stone brackets. The raw brick elevations were decorated with zendrówka decorations, creating various patterns. The main corpus of the castle was surrounded by a zwinger with four corner towers. In the south-west part was located dansker, connected with a castle by a porch, at the level of the main storey. A moat with a width of about 15 meters adhered to the quadrilateral of the masonry walls.
Large outer bailey developed around the convent’s seat. The main castle was located in its center, which distinguished it from other Teutonic castles. The outer bailey was protected by the fortifications with towers and two gates. One of them led to the north, the other to the port and defensive buildings of the mill. In the economic zone of the castle, there was brewery, malt house, granaries, stables and servant‘s residential houses.
The castle in Gniew is now in private hands, but it is open to visitors. There is a hotel on the outer baily, there are knights tournaments, summer camps and other events. Unfortunately, the new owner decided to turn the cultural heritage and historical object into a money factory at the expense of its appearance. A landing pad of helicopters appeared on the bailey and the courtyard was covered with a glass roof. In the end, the most important is that tourists and owners did not have rain on their heads.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Torbus T., Zamki konwentualne państwa krzyżackiego w Prusach, Gdańsk 2014.