The grounds on which the castle was later erected were captured by the Teutonic Knights in 1236. After the capture of the local Prussian settlement, the knights created only a timber watchtower here, because at that time the construction of a stone caommandry castle in the nearby Dzierzgoń was in progress, and Zantyr served as a base for further conquests. When the castle was built in Malbork in the fourth quarter of the 13th century, only the Teutonic court existed in Sztum, at which a small settlement was established. It was mentioned for the first time in sources in 1294.
A brick castle in Sztum (Stuhm) was built in the second quarter of the 14th century (around 1326), during the time of the great master Werner von Orseln. From 1331, it was the seat of the Teutonic vogt, subordinate to commandry in Malbork. Its task was also to protect the most convenient route from Germany and Pomerania with the crossing of the Vistula near Zantyr. Important routes crossed in Sztum, including the road to the capital of the Teutonic state, Malbork, bypassing the area of Żuławy and Sztum Forest very difficult for travelers, as well as an important road from Toruń. Therefore, it became one of the best protected strongholds in the Teutonic state, mainly due to the island location, as well as the defense system integrated with the town.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, castle was expanded, because it also began to act as an occasional residence of great masters, using the stronghold during hunting. Guests were often met at the castle, and the proper organization of their stay was one of the forms of diplomatic relations. One of the first was Anna, invited to Sztum in 1399, wife of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas, whom the Teutonic Knights wanted to win in order to break up the Polish-Lithuanian union. The duchess visited the castle twice, and in her honor a party was issued for which it was necessary to buy as many as 1290 loaves of bread. Around 1406, for more splendor a zoo was established near the stronghold, to which prince Vytautas gave to great master an aurochs from the Lithuanian wilderness. From this period, there are also references to the establishment of vineyards and rose gardens in the vicinity.
The times of hunting and ostentatious feasts passed after the defeat of the Order at the Battle of Grunwald. The vogt of Sztum, Henry Potendorf, fell there, and the castle was captured by bribery and plundered by Polish troops going to Malbork. Władysław Jagiełło entrusted Sztum to the knight Andrzej Brochocki and a selected and well-stocked garrison. Despite this, after the withdrawal of the siege of Malbork and the withdrawal of the main Polish-Lithuanian forces from Prussia, the castle succumbed to the Teutonic forces under the leadership of Henry von Plauen. It happened as a result of the siege started around the beginning of October, as a result of which the main tower and entrance gate burnt, as well as the roof of the southern wing and the castle chapel.
In the second half of the fifteenth century, the burghers of Sztum came to the Prussian Confederation, but after the outbreak of the Thirteen Years’ War in February 1454, the Teutonic Knights defended themselves for quite a long time in the Sztum Castle, until August 8. The reason for the surrender was hunger and illness, as 50 defenders reportedly died of exhaustion. Dilapidated garrison of 70 cavalry and 20 footmen went to Malbork, and the winners garrisoned the stronghold with their own crew under the command of Jan Bażyński, the leader of the Prussian Confederation. After the defeat of the Polish armies at Chojnice on November 18 of the same year, the Teutonic Knights captured the castle and were in its possession until 1466. It was only under the Second Peace of Toruń that Sztum found itself in the lands granted to Poland, and the Polish starosts began to reside in the castle.
In the 16th century, Sztum lost its importance and declined, even the extension of the location privilege in 1553 by king Zygmunt I did not help. In the 17th century, the castle was destroyed during the Swedish wars, and the demolition of the damaged walls began in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, there were offices and prison at the castle buildings. In the years 1966-1971, renovation work was undertaken, completed only in the 90’s, when the main southern castle house was renovated.
The castle was located in the eastern part of the isthmus, on the central, highest of the three islands located between two lakes. On its west side was the outer bailey, from which the settlement developed, and next the town. On the eastern side there was a smaller island, later transformed into a bridgehead. The whole took a total of about 300 x 800 meters and differed from typical Teutonic defensive complexes. The castle was built on an irregular, trapezoid-like plan, conditioned by shape to the isthmus. Even before commencing the essential construction works, the castle area was raised with a clay surface and the water level in Sztum lakes was regulated, by dredging the natural flow of water integrated into the valleys in the form of a nameless stream flowing from the marshes of the Sztum Forest. The sluice was responsible for water control, mentioned for the first time in 1416, which, if necessary, reduced or increased its level in the moats and in the lakes surrounding the Sztum: Barlewickie and Zajezierskie (Sztum Lake).
All three parts (castle, town and eastern ward – bridgehead) were fortified in the Middle Ages and separated by moats. The town was surrounded by a wall on three sides, and on the fourth, eastern, that is from the castle side was only secured by a moat and its retaining wall. In line of the fortifications, about 10 towers were placed, mainly four-sided, protruding from the face of the wall, initially probably open from the town side. Only two corner towers had a full, closed form. One of the towers flanked the Malbork Gate (placed in a smaller gatehouse) located in the western curtain, while the Kwidzyn Gate was located in the north-eastern corner of the town. It led to the road, which by the northern edge of the central island bypassed the castle leading directly to the eastern ward. The latter was probably protected only by earth ramparts in the length of which two gate towers controlling the passage on the north-east (Prabuty Gate) and south-west were erected. Most probably each of them was preceded by a drawbridge.
The castle buildings were located along the defensive walls surrounding the extensive courtyard. Their lower parts were made of erratic stones, and the higher of bricks. From the south-west there was a high, four-sided, seven-storey tower flanking the entrance gate. Its dimensions in the plan were 9×9 meters. Inside, apart from defensive positions, it probably housed residential chambers (it is known that in 1402 the chimney was repaired, so a fireplace or stove had to operate), as well as weapons and food warehouses. It was one of three towers strengthening the defensive circuit. In addition there was also a north-west six-sided tower and a four-sided tower from the north-east (Albrecht’s Tower) flanking a nearby postern gate (today its location is indicated by massive stone corbels). The six-sided tower was called the Prison Tower, due to the cell placed in it on the lowest floor (illuminated only by a single vent). In the early modern period, and maybe even earlier, the tower was connected by a wooden footbridge to the Kwidzyn Gate. The entrance to the castle was placed in the gatehouse in the southwestern part of the walls. It was preceded by a bridge on the moat separating the castle from the town. From the south and south-east, the castle was surrounded by a outer wall, and on the entire perimeter by the aforementioned, filled with water moat, which was walled on both sides.
The internal development was placed by the internal faces of the defensive walls. At the short southern curtain was the main house on a rectangular plan with dimensions of 11×52 meters. It had a basement and probably two upper floors. It contained a refectory, chambers of the Teutonic vogt and guest rooms, probably like on other Teutonic buildings located on the first floor. Their exact layout is unknown, it is only known that the largest residential chamber was illuminated by two windows and adjacent to a latrine, probably located in the southern wall. Later reports indicate that heating was provided by fireplaces and tiled stoves. The ground floor could house utility rooms: kitchen, pantries, laundry, maybe a bathhouse. Until the construction of the east wing at the beginning of the 15th century, there probably was also a bakery with flour and salt storage and a brewery. The highest level intended for the granary, meat drying room and storage of agricultural equipment served economic functions. As in other Teutonic houses, a defensive porch surrounded the south building, placed in the crown of the wall, under the roof. The cellars were only under the western part and were crowned with rib vaults supported by polygonal brick pillars. A brick, two-story gallery was added to the building from the courtyard side.
At the eastern wall lay a range housing the chapel of St. Lawrence. The temple was two-story and perhaps extended towards the eastern zwinger, going outside the perimeter of the main walls. This extended part could also have a defensive function. The eastern wing was extended at the beginning of the 15th century to the north to dimensions of about 55×10 meters. A bakery, a brewery with a malt house and a large kitchen separated by the brick walls at lower level were situated, while the first floor was occupied by a granary. Judging from early modern descriptions, to the building led a number of separate entrances from the courtyard, the rooms could also be internally connected to each other. The building was covered with a gable roof with gable from the north
Next to the wall from the north, other economic buildings were located, including a granary. The well was located in the eastern part of the courtyard. Walled with stone blocks, 30 meters deep, it reportedly supplied water considered for a long time as the best in Sztum. The inner courtyard itself was an exceptionally spacious, flat space surrounded by walls and compact buildings. It met the requirements of the tournament yard, as well as banquet facilities, where Teutonic Knights feasted at travelers’ tables set up under tents or in the open air.
The extension from the beginning of the 15th century also resulted in the construction of a residential building on the west side (around 1415-1420), called the summer house of the great masters. It took the space at the perimeter wall between the Prison Tower and the gate. It received dimensions of about 25×10 meters, three floors and the top in the form of a gable ceramic roof.
Outside the castle walls, at the outer bailey, and later also within the town there were fishing farms, grange, inn, commercial stalls, garden, apiary, vineyard, zoo and production workshops (brickyard, pottery workshop, lime klin). Further on, water mills and a windmill were within the commandry’s borders.
To modern times the southern wing with vaulted cellars and defensive walls, with a much lowered gate tower and corner tower have been preserved. At the castle is the Brotherhood of the Knights of Sztum Land, organized are knights tournaments and battle shows. The castle is open from Monday to Friday in the hours 9.00-16.00 and on Saturdays in the 9.30-12.00.
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.