According to the chronicler Peter of Dusburg, the first Teutonic Knights under the command of the land master Herman Balk, reached the area around Kwidzyn in 1233. They erected a timber watchtower, which, however, soon was destroyed the spring flood. In the same year, a second watchtower was built, this time located on a hill in a later town area. In the years 1242-1250, the Teutonic Knights transformed it into a brick castle, then called Marienwerder.
After the division of Prussia by Pope Innocent IV in 1243, the Order was obliged to give 1/3 of the territory of each diocese to the bishops. As a result of the year-long negotiations, the choise fell on Kwidzyn, which soon became the capital of the Pomesanian diocese. The Teutonic Knights gave their castle to the bishop in 1254. It was a period of frequent uprisings of the Prussians who, although they had conquered and destroyed the town several times, did not captured the castle. Despite this, the threat was so large that bishop Albert left Kwidzyn and resided in Ulm, where in 1284 he appointed the Pomesanian chapter, which he entrusted the organization and construction of a new cathedral in Kwidzyn. Initially, its members lived in the bishop’s castle, but soon began the construction of a new castle located next to the emerging cathedral.
The chapter’s castle was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. Initially, the defensive seat of canons was not connected with the adjacent parish church. Until 1338, the eastern range was built. In the second stage, a southern building was built, connected with a large tower – a belfry. Then, the walls of the west wing were placed, and at the end – northern range. The castle was finally completed around 1340-1350. The addition of a great gothic church from the east caused that a monumental and compact sacral – defensive complex of medieval buildings was created. In the second half of the fourteenth century, work on cloisters, western dansker and the northern tower continued.
In the 15th-16th century, the castle was destroyed several times. Under the arrangements of the Second Peace of Toruń, Kwidzyn, together with the episcopal dominion, was granted to the Order of the Teutonic Order, but the diocese of Pomezania was for life rendered to the Polish bishop of Chełmno, Wincent Kiełbasa. After his death, the Order attempted to cast the Pomesania bishopric, having the support of the cathedral chapter. This led to the intervention of Polish forces known as the Priest War. In 1478, the Polish army captured Kwidzyn. During the war, the castle was seriously damaged. During the renovation works carried out in 1487, the damaged corner towers were demolished. In 1520, as a result of further military operations, Polish troops again damaged the Kwidzyn castle.
In 1526, the Pomesanian bishops converted to Protestantism. In the 1530s, the first Protestant bishop Paulus Speratus, at his own expense, carried out the renovation of the chapter castle. After his death in 1551, the castle was taken over by the officials of prince Albrecht Hohenzollern, becoming a government building and a residence. After the first partition of Poland in 1772, the castle became the seat of the court. Some of its rooms have been adapted for prison purposes.
In 1798, a decision was made to demolish two castle ranges: the eastern one and the most representative southern one, to build a separate building from the acquired material. After 1854, under the regulation of king Frederick William IV, the castle devastation ceased and reconstruction work began. Their most important stage was carried out in 1874. As a result, corner towers were rebuilt, vaults in the rooms of the first floor of the northern wing were reconstructed and the architectural detail was completed. In 1945, the castle, unlike the Old Town, happily avoided major damages.
The appearance of the castle was influenced by the Teutonic architecture and the scheme of the conventual castle. It was a four-range, regular complex with a cloistered inner courtyard. The main castle was erected on a plan similar to a square with dimensions of 48.7 x 49.6 meters. It was crowned with three corner towers and a monumental belfry with a height of 56 meters. South-eastern and south-west ranges were four-storey, while the other had five floors. The elevations of ranges and towers were decorated with rhythmic, plastered bands of slender blends. The entrance gate was placed in a deep recess on the axis of the northern range. It was preceded by a foregate and a bridge.
A characteristic feature of the castle is the largest sanitary-defense tower in the Teutonic state, located 55 meters from the west range of the castle. This dansker is connected with the main castle by a porch supported by five, high arcades, about a dozen meters high. From the north there is another dansker tower, the Well Tower connected by two arcades with a castle, commonly called Small Dansker.
In the cellars with groin and rib vaults, food warehouses and prison were located. Its outer walls were provided with narrow window openings, perhaps also used as shooting holes. In the ground floor there were utility rooms and stoves, heating the rooms on the floors. In the west range, a kitchen, a bakery and a pantry were located, and a dormitory on the first floor. The first floor also served for canons, it obtained richly decorated polychromes and stellar vaults. On the second floor in the south range there was a chapter house and a summer refectory. In the eastern building there was an infirmary, and next to it a provost apartment, from which a passage to the room in the tower led, where the archive and treasury were probably located. In the north range there was a chapel and a winter refectory. The third floor housed a library and additional rooms for the clergy and students of the cathedral school. The fourth storeys were warehouses, and the highest storeys served for defense. A defensive porch, surrounding also the cathedral, ran around it. Guard chambers were placed at the castle gate.
To this day, two wings of the upper castle, two impressive towers – danskers and a tower – belfry have survived from the castle. The castle currently houses a museum, open in the winter season from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 14:30, and in the summer season from 9:00 to 17:00.
Architektura gotycka w Polsce, red. T. Mroczko i M. Arszyński, Warszawa 1995.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.