On the site of the Grudziądz castle, there was originally a Slavic timber – earth defensive hillfort, recorded for the first time in a document by Bolesław the Bold under the name “Castrum Grudomzch”. It was used in the times of the early Piast monarchy to control the crossing of the Vistula River, and then it was part of the castellany, playing an important role on the northern borders of the state. It could have been destroyed during the raids of Prussian tribes, because in the document of the Duke of Mazovia, Konrad, from 1222, it was described as the “quondam castrum”. In that year, the prince gave the hillfort along with a number of other strongholds to the Prussian bishop Christian, wanting to support his mission among the pagans. The stronghold could remain in the hands of the bishop until his death in 1245, although it cannot be ruled out that already around 1231 it was taken over by the Teutonic Knights, who then made efforts to eliminate the competitive authority.
The construction of the brick Teutonic seat of the Teutonic Knights called Graudenz took place in the second half of the 13th century. The first phase of construction probably began after the pacification of the second Prussian Uprising, i.e. at the end of the 1270s. The works could also begin before the Prussian Uprising, as the beginnings of the Grudziądz commandry date back to the period between 1263 and 1269, but in such a case they had to be interrupted while the rebellion was suppressed. In 1299, the castle chapel was consecrated, which, however, was not tantamount to the completion of construction works. Shortly after 1300, the main bergfried tower, called Klimek, was erected, in the first quarter of the 14th century the west wing of the castle was also built.
In 1388, part of the west wing, together with the dansker and the commander’s house, fell to the Vistula due to heavy rains, but it was rebuilt in a similar form. According to the inventories of the Teutonic Knights, in the years 1404-1440 there was also a kitchen, bakery and brewery in the castle, the fortifications of the outer bailey in the south and external fortifications had to be completed, the latter in the second half of the fourteenth century expanded on the eastern and northern sides. However, already in the years 1442 – 1446, during the rule of the Grand Master Konrad von Erlichshausen, some of the buildings were in a bad condition, among others, the convent house needed repair. Intensive construction and repair works were also carried out in the outer bailey.
The castle had to be considered particularly defensive, since during the war with Poland the Grand Master Werner von Orseln chose it in 1330 for his headquarters. After the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, the castle was temporarily occupied by Polish troops. During the Thirteen Years’ War in 1454, it was quickly conquered by the forces of the Prussian Union and the Teutonic attempts to recapture it were ineffective. After the war and the incorporation of Royal Prussia to Poland, it became the seat of the starosts of Grudziądz.
In 1655 Grudziądz was captured by the Swedes who modernized the fortifications. Four years later, the stronghold was recaptured by the Poles, but the walls and roofs of buildings were partially destroyed. In the 18th century, the process of destruction continued, until the castle was almost completely demolished by order of the Prussian king Frederick William II. Only the demolition of the main tower was stopped, which unfortunately was blown up by German soldiers in 1945.
The castle was built on a hill with 60 meters high slopes on the west side, descending to the Vistula river, separated by ravines and artificial ditches from the neighboring hills. On the eastern side, the area was lower, creating wet meadows that were difficult to cross in the spring and summer. There was also Lake Tuszewskie, where the Teutonic Knights mill operated. From the north, the Osa River joined the Vistula, while in the south, the castle was adjacent to the fortified town.
The main part of the castle, which was the seat of the convent, was on an irregular, trapezoidal quadrilateral plan. Four ranges surrounded the courtyard with a well. In the north-west corner was a round tower, later called Klimek. It performed defensive, observational and prison functions. Its height was 30 meters, and the diameter was 8.9 meters. The entrance to it was placed 14 meters above the level of the courtyard. On the external walls, it was decorated with glazed bricks in the form of alternating belts made of natural bricks and glazed in green. It was a unique form of decoration in the Teutonic State.
The main three-story castle range was erected from the south. It housed a gateway in the ground floor, perhaps secured by a defensive bay suspended on the top floor and towering over the entrance. Certainly the gate was preceded by a foregate. Above the economic ground floor in the southern wing there was a refectory, a representative chamber (perhaps a second refectory, once considered as a chapter house), a narrow room separating them and the chapel of the Virgin Mary. The wing also had a third low storey serving storage and defense functions. The south façade of the southern range was divided with ogival blendes with the main and upper storey windows embedded in them, which was the main feature of the castle.
The western range was intended for the commander’s chamber and guest rooms. In the direction of Wisła river, a dansker tower was put on the arcades. On the east side a brewery, a bakery and a dormitory were located. In the second half of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century, single-storied, brick, commercial buildings were erected along the northern curtain with a channel running under the north zwinger, that drains the waste from the castle’s kitchen. The kitchen was placed in the northern range, from the east it was adjacent to a barrel vaulted room with a basement.
Buildings from the side of the inner ward were connected with cloisters and from the outside, the whole was surrounded by a second perimeter of the wall. It was quite irregular, adapted to the terrain, which meant that the width of the zwinger was varied. After the western slope slid to the Vistula in 1388, the zwinger wall was not rebuilt here, but the dansker (latrine) was erected again and the half-timber building on the brick foundation under its arcades was also built. Its function is unknown.
From the north, south and east sides, the upper castle was surrounded by outer wards. The most extensive and oldest of them, created in the first half of the fourteenth century, protected by a four-sided tower, was located on the south side. At the eastern and western curtains there were two oblong economic buildings on it. The southern outer ward was connected with the eastern ward by the Fijowska Gate complex. Pressed between the perimeter wall and the wall of the lower zwinger, this gate had an unusual arrangement – the gatehouse tower was located near the curtain, and the foregate from the side of the southern ward. The southern ward was connected with the upper castle through a bridge, based on one side on the pillars, and on the other side on the wall of the entryway. Bridge was led over the moat and zwinger, additionally protected by a cylindrical tower.
In the second half of the fourteenth century, in the south-west corner of the zwinger of the upper castle, the commander’s house was erected. Probably a little later south of the entrance gate, also next to the zwinger wall, another brick building was erected. The commander’s house was a one-story structure with three rooms from which the extreme western one was equipped with a latrine, most likely in the form of a projection bay.
The castle in Grudziądz, apart from the small relics, has not survived to our times. In recent years, a new Klimek Tower has been built, but it is not a true replica, but only a brick and concrete viewing platform. The remains of the southern wing basements with fragments of the staircase connecting the basement with the courtyard and fragments of the eastern part of the gate’s neck have survived from the original parts of the castle. On the west side of the gate passage, a cross-vaulted cellar, another staircase and stone pavement were discovered. No traces of the curtain walls of the northern and western wings have survived, as this part of the hill has been completely leveled. In the area of the former zwinger, the remains of the so-called commander’s house have been discovered.
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