Pokrzywno – Teutonic Castle


   Castle in Pokrzywno (Engelsburg) was one of the oldest Teutonic strongholds in Chełmno. It was preceded by a Slav hillfort and settlement dating back to the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Located on a hill in the fork of two streams, it was adjacent to the rout leading from Radzyń to Grudziądz, which raised the strategic role of the stronghold. The construction of a makeshift wooden watchtower began in 1231. From 1279 comes information about the first teutonic commander of Henryk Brabantius. It was probably then that the brick castle was built. Pokrzywno served as the commandry until 1416, that is to the death of the last commander Frederick von Zollern. After that date, the castle and castle’s farm were included in the vogts of Rogoźno.
In 1411, on the initiative of the Grand Master Henry von Plauen, the Teutonic Knights began to modernize the defense system. It was renovated and the walls were raised and equipped with more modern arrowslits. After the coup, Henry von Plauen himself was demoted and transferred to the commandry in Pokrzywno. The castle remained the property of the order until the outbreak of the Thirteen Years War in 1454, when it was taken over by the rebellious forces of the Prussian Union. Under the agreements of the Second Peace of Toruń, in 1466, Pokrzywno along with the entire Chełmno land was incorporated into Poland and until the first partition in 1772 it was the seat of Polish starosts. The castle burnt down in 1611, and in 1657 it was destroyed by the Swedes. Despite partial reconstruction, it has not regained its original value. At the end of the 18th century the buildings were sold to a private person and disassembled.


   The castle was built on a promontory of a hill in the forks of two streams. In the late Middle Ages, the fully formed complex consisted of the upper castle, the first outer ward (middle bailey) and the spacious second ward (lower bailey) separated by a ditch.
   Built in several phases until the end of the thirteenth century, the upper ward consisted of two wings on the plan of the letter L. As the oldest northern building was extended after some time to the southwest, and a new wing was added from the east, in the older part some windows had to be bricked up and transform the basement’s entrance by adding a neck with stairs. The basements had vaults, but the above-ground rooms were initially covered only with flat, wooden ceilings supported by granite corbels. In the first half of the fourteenth century, the flat ceilings located in the chambers on the first floor were replaced by a rib vault. The northern part of the upper castle probably housed the castle church, and the other rooms of the first floor representative chambers, e.g. a refectory. At the ground floor, like in other Teutonic castles, you can find the kitchen and bakery. Communication between rooms was probably provided by a cloister, but it is not known whether it was brick or timber.
   From the south-east, a gatehouse with a foregate adjoined the building, which size and thin walls indicate a slight height. On its floor there was a 5.4×2.6 meter room, without a fireplace, and thus not having residential functions. A castle chapel could be located there, as evidenced by the preserved decorative elements, e.g. chalice capitals or a trefoil crowned window. The remaining buildings of the courtyard are unknown, it is not known whether the castle had a tower, and the hypotheses about the existence of the southwestern wing of the dormitory are not confirmed. The upper part of the castle from the outer bailey (middle ward) was not separated by a ditch, and the road leading to the gate was paved.
   The middle ward consisted of buildings adjacent to the bent perimeter walls, reinforced with only one corner turret on the west side. In the northern part there was the so-called a granary, which was actually rather a brewery or malt house. Its decorative elements indicate that after the transfer of economic buildings in the fourteenth century to the lower ward, it also served as residential functions. In addition, other economic buildings stood at the inner faces of the perimeter walls. Probably stables were located in the eastern part. The entrance to the middle ward was located near the northern corner and was located in the gatehouse. A ditch was dug in front of the gate between two outer wards. On its other side, when building the entrance gate to the bridge, a decoration made of zendrówka bricks was used and gate was crowned with decorative triangular gables.
   The lower ward had economic buildings, including a barn decorated with rhombic patterns made of zendrówka bricks. Traces of buildings added to the walls can also be seen in the south-eastern part. An unusual feature of the lower ward was its through nature, because throughout its length from east to west led the road.

Current state

   Currently, the gate of the upper castle, the granary on the middle castle and the gate and barn of the outer bailey are the best preserved. In addition, fragments of the walls of the main building and defensive walls have survived. Neglected and falling apart ruin is in private hands.

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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.