The first Teutonic castle in Przezmark (Preußisch Mark) was erected in the second half of the 13th century. Its original name refers to a document from 1305 in which it was described as the Prutenicale Forum, meaning the Prussian Market. The construction of a brick building in years 1316 to 1331 was initiated by the commander of the Dzierzgoń, Luther from Braunschweig, at the same time fulfilling the duties of the obersttrappier. In the castle there was a obersttressler’s office, from 1320 a pfleger’s seat, from 1359 a vogt’s seat and finally in 1437 a convent moved here, after the destruction of the castle in Dzierzgoń. In connection with raising the rank of the castle, it was expanded in 1359, when the main castle’s house was extended and again in 1437, when it was raised.
Although the castle was located in a very convenient place for defense, in 1410 it was taken without a fight by the army of Władysław Jagiełło. The Polish king rented it to the knight Mroczko and sent him to the castle together with the writer to draw up a property inventory. On the way back, the writer and the fellowship were killed. A knight Mroczko was blamed for the desire to take over the Teutonic treasures, although the matter was never fully explained. A year later, however, the castle returned to the Teutonic Knights as a result of the First Peace of Toruń.
In 1414, during the so-called Hunger War, Przezmark was to be conquered again by the Polish army and heavily damaged, but the inventories of that time are unlikely to confirm such events (among others, the chapel’s equipment was not looted). After recapturing the stronghold, the Order significantly expanded and strengthened the castle. In 1437, the seat of the commander, who was then Walter von Kirskorf, was transferred to it from Dzierzgoń. Together with the lieutenant Ulrich von Dudelsheym, the convent had 18 members at the time.
In 1454, when the Thirteen-year Polish-Teutonic war broke out, the terrified commander Gunter Hetzwald, secretly from the castle garrison, collected all valuables from the treasury and fled to Malbork. A week later, the castle was occupied by Elbląg troops, led by Gabriel Bażyński, newly appointed by the Polish king, the Elbląg voivode. They lasted until autumn, when the balance of power changed due to the defeat at Chojnice. This time, Bażyński escaped to Elbląg, and the left commander, burgher from Braniewo, George von Berge, surrendered the castle to the Teutonic troops in exchange for the preserving life and property. Soon, the dispersed convent returned to Przezmark, taking action to strengthen the castle, which became a key stronghold in the region next to Malbork, guarding the route from Pomesania to Pasłęk. Finally, under the Second Peace of Toruń from 1466, Przemarkk remained within the borders of Order Prussia, and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order became a vassal of the Polish king.
In the 15th century, armaments for Teutonic knights were manufactured on a large scale in Przezmark and in the 16th century, guns, hand firearms and ammunition were made. However, at the beginning of the 16th century, due to the deteriorating state of the Teutonic finances, Przezmark passed into the possession of the Pomesanian bishops, and then after secularization, became the seat of the starosts. Therefore, in the 80s of the 16th century, the castle underwent another reconstruction, which was to make it a residence in place of a defensive building. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the building, although it housed the Land Office, was seriously neglected, and the process of its ruin was sealed, when at the end of the eighteenth century, the demolition of walls was begun in order to obtain building materials for the farm and Evangelical church.
The natural conditions of terrain were used when the castle was built, placing it in the corner of the peninsula, falling down steep slopes to the Motława Wielka lake. It was separated from the outer ward by a wide, irrigated moat, over which a bridge based on two massive brick pillars was erected. Behind the moat there was a defensive wall with a gate and two towers: round from the west and square, so-called Prison Tower from the east. The latter was built around 1329 as part of the extension of the pfleger’s castle. It reached a height of 35 meters and six floors. Its facades are decorated with patterns of heavily fired zendrówka bricks. The gatehouse was topped with gothic gables and probably preceded by a short foregate. At the courtyard of the middle ward, there were originally auxiliary buildings attached to the curtain walls. After the convent was moved to the upper ward in 1437, all economic facilities were located here. Among others, to the west of the Prison Tower was a treadmill.
The upper ward was separated from the central part by a deep and wide, dry moat (ditch) in the shape of the letter L. The banks of its northern section were walls of middle and upper wards, the western section probably included earth ramparts. The upper ward was surrounded by a brick perimeter wall set on a stone foundation, 73 meters long on the north-south line, 47 meters wide (on the east-west line) and of unknown height. A brick, octagonal tower with a diameter of 8 meters was adjacent to the southern side of the curtain, while the gate to the upper castle preceded by a zwinger (mantlet wall) was located in the north-west corner. Probably due to ground conditions, it was located at an angle. From the east, just like from the north, the castle was defended by an additional outer wall.
Initially, the main castle buildings consisted only of an eastern house surrounded by a quadrangle of defensive walls with a courtyard on its west side. Extremely long house with dimensions of 12×61 meters was made of brick on a stone plinth. Together with the cloisters attached to it, it occupied the entire eastern side of the quadrangle. It was originally a three-story building with a basement. Entrances from the courtyard level from under the cloister arcades led to the basements and ground floor rooms, and to the first floor two staircases located by the cloister pillars. The basement was a single long chamber (divided into two rooms in the 15th century) topped with groin vaults, supported by a row of 11 granite pillars. Access to them led from the courtyard through two staircases: in the southern part and roughly 1/3 of the length of the wall from the north. The ground floor rooms also had vaults, the upper storeys had only timber ceilings. The extremely southern chamber of the ground floor stood out, its vault was based on a single granite pillar. Access to it was through a double arcade from a cloister, and perhaps by a portal from the northern chamber. In the northern part of the wing, in the projection on the upper floor, there was a small, narrow room, which the space above and below was not available (no traces of the door opening), and next to it, in the eastern perimeter wall, there was an entrance to the timber bay latrine. In the first half of the 15th century the building was enlarged by a new floor, but it was not raised, but only the vaults were removed to get space for the new ceiling. The eastern building on the first floor housed the main castle rooms, such as the refectory or dormitory, but exceptionally the chapel of St. Anna was located at the middle ward. It was moved to the upper castle only after convent being placed in the stronghold in the 15th century. The ground floor rooms, like in other Teutonic buildings, had an economic role (kitchen, bakery, pantries). Probably from the north a four-sided tower adjoined the building. Perhaps there was a treasury in it.
In the southern part of the castle stood the aforementioned octagonal tower with which was adjacent dansker (latrine tower), protruding towards the lake. Access to it was possible by a wooden porch. The north wing was built in two phases, in the 15th and 18th centuries. The southern building was already a 17th century addition. On the slopes of the castle, gardens or orchards were supposedly established, to which the southern wicket gate led. It is known that in addition to the rooms necessary for the Teutonic convent, there was also a brewery, granary, malt house, saddlehouse, stables, smithy and armory.
The main element of the castle that has survived to this day is the so-called Prisoner Tower, located on the former outer bailey. In addition, there are only small fragments of the outer walls, an outline of the room based on granite pillars in the east wing, or the relics of the entrance gate. Ruins belong to a private person who admits willing tourists to visit the castle.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Haftka M., Zamki krzyżackie. Dzierźgoń-Przezmark-Sztum, Gdańsk 2010.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Steinbrecht C., Die Ordensburgen der Hochmeisterzeit in Preussen, Berlin 1920.
Żurek M. Zamek pokrzyżacki w Przezmarku. Wstępne wyniki badań, “Archaeologia Historica Polona” tom 26, 2018.