The castle was erected in the 80s of the 13th century, as one of the first regular conventual castles of the Teutonic Order. Until 1410, the seat of a small commandry was located here, which first known superior was some Alexander, who was recorded in 1284. There were definitely economic and defensive reasons for choosing Papowo. The village was surrounded by extensive goods with fertile soils, and the settlement itself stretched on the shore of the lake. Grains were grown around the castle, cattle, sheep and horses were bred.
After the battle of Grunwald in 1410, the castle was soon occupied by Polish knights. After the withdrawal of Polish troops, the teutonic commandry located in Papowo was liquidated, and the stronghold became the seat of the teutonic vogt. In 1411, the Polish knight Janusz Brzozogłowy invaded Papowo, which caused damages to the outer bailey. Again, the castle was destroyed during the Polish-Teutonic war in 1454-1466. In 1454, it was again taken over by Poles and recaptured by the Teutonic Knights only after four years. A few months later, the Polish army under the command of Piotr of Szamotuły took the castle by assault, which was plundered and set on fire.
In 1466 Papowo Biskupie was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland and became a part of the royal goods. Its first starost was Gabriel Bażyński. In 1505, the Chełmno bishops were in possession of the stronghold, and used it until 1772. Than it was taken away from them by the decision of the Prussian king Frederick the Great and it quickly fell into disrepair. In the nineteenth century, demolition for the building materials was made by local residents.
Glacial erratic stones, granite and only partly brick rubble were used for building the castle. It was unusual for the Teutonic castles. The faces of the walls were made extremely carefully, arranging the stones in such a way that the wall had a smooth surface on the outside. Filling of the walls was made of smaller and larger stones, flooded with lime mortar. The upper parts of the convent’s house was built of bricks. In the walls, there are openings that indicate the use of scaffolding during construction works.
The castle was built on a square plan with a side of 40 meters, situated on a strategically placed slight hill, on the isthmus between two lakes. The compact block consisted of four ranges with basements, two floors and an attic. The location of the rooms was probably typical of the then Teutonic castles – the basement and ground floor served storage and economic functions, the first floor served residential and representative functions, and the attic was for defense and storage. In the corners of the building there could be small, protruding turrets, as indicated by thicker walls in those places. These turrets were full, up to the height of porches and did not had any rooms inside. It was not allowed by their small size, 3.2 meters long, although it can not be ruled out, that their finial was accessible through the internal stairs and housed a small platform with a forebreast (similar to the castles in Malbork and Golub).
The main wing was located from the north and on the first floor it contained two larger chambers. On its axis there was a gate passage, preceded by a neck. From the east, there was probably a chapel, covered with a rib vault, and on the opposite side a vaulted refectory. In the chapel from the east there was an altar niche. Both rooms were originally covered with plasters, perhaps decorated with wall polychromes, both were also illuminated from the exterior facades with large ogival windows. From the side of the courtyard, the rooms had smaller, single windows. The short eastern wing, limited from the north and south to the neighboring ranges, it contained only one room on the first floor. The west wing was longer and reached the southern end of the castle. On its first floor there were two rooms of similar size, and on the ground floor there was a kitchen, which was found after the presence of a chimney of 3.6 x 4.3 meters. The rooms above the kitchen were practically devoid of windows, that is why it is possible that they served as storage of food and kitchen equipment. The south range was divided into two rooms of equal size on the first floor. In the south and east wings, there was probably a dormitory and commander rooms. The layout of the rooms on all floors of all ranges was analogous. All the rooms of the castle had cross vaults, and only part of the cellars – barrel vaults.
A paved courtyard measuring 18×18 meters was surrounded by the cloisters, ensuring communication between the rooms. At least partially it could be made of brick (by the north wing), but without vaults, and with timber sidewalks. Cloisters were covered with mono-pitched roofs. The cellars were accessible through staircases in the form of a neck. One of them was discovered in the north-western corner of the courtyard. In the west basement of the north wing there was a hypocaustum stove, heating the chambers with warm air. There is no certainty where the dansker tower (latrine tower) was located. It could have been located by the west wing, where there was a stone corbel. The main castle did not have an outer wall separating the zwinger area, but perhaps the edges of the hill were reinforced with a palisade. The outer wall was located only from the north, from the side of the courtyard of the outer ward, reaching the foregate of the main house.
From the east and north to the main castle, there was an economic outer ward, surrounded by a defensive wall 1.3-1.4 meters thick and with moats. The moat, however, did not separate the ward from the convent’s house (the upper castle), there was only mentioned a gates’ neck and outer wall. The building of the outer ward was located at the northern wall, where a 9-meter-wide economic house with basement was erected. To the west of the castle and the outer ward there was another island, similar in size to the castle one. Perhaps it was in the Middle Ages, a second, yet undiscovered, outer bailey with only timber buildings.
To this day, the peripheral walls of the northern, eastern and western wings, as well as fragments of the foregate walls, have survived. The northern wing of the chapel and the chapter house is best preserved. The security and renovation works of the neglected building are to begin in the near future. Until then, access to its area is free.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Torbus T., Zamki konwentualne państwa krzyżackiego w Prusach, Gdańsk 2014.
Wasik B., Budownictwo zamkowe na ziemi chełmińskiej od XIII do XV wieku, Toruń 2016.
Wasik B., Dzieje budowy i architektura zamku w Papowie Biskupim na ziemi chełmińskiej w świetle ostatnich badañ, “Biuletyn Historii Sztuki”, 2015.