Schönberg Castle was built by the Pomesanian chapter in the years 1378-1386, and then in the second phase, it was expanded from the 90s of the 14th century. Initially, it served as the residence of the chapter provost, that is the head of the chapter and the main administrator of its estates. He dealt with the locations of the villages, giving land and privileges, he took care of enlarging the wealth of the chapter. Also settlers arriving from German countries stopped at the castle. In 1421, the bishops of Chełmno and Pomesania resided here, under whose supervision, copies of Teutonic and papal documents were made, borrowed from the Malbork archives in relation with the resumption of the Polish-Teutonic trial by pope Martin V.
During the Thirteen Years’ War, the castle often passed from hand to hand, due to which it was partially destroyed, but also quickly rebuilt. As a result of the provisions of the Second Peace of Toruń from 1466, it remained within the borders of the Teutonic state. In 1520, the castle without a fight surrendered at the sight of a five-thousand Polish army, led by Stanisław Kostka, who became the royal starost of Szymbark until 1526. After the secularization of the Teutonic state, the castle was owned by Albrecht Hohenzollern, who at first left the castle in the hands of bishop Erhard von Queiss, and after his death handed it to the evangelical bishop Georg von Polentz. His heirs managed the castle until 1653, carrying out a renaissance redevelopment. Jonah Kazimierz von Eulenburg was the next owner of the Szymbark, followed by Teodor Schlieben. At the end of the 17th century he sold the castle to Ernest Finck von Finckenstein, whose family owned the castle until 1945. This family rebuilt the castle, raising, among others, apartments in south-east parts of the complex.
During World War II the castle was taken over by SS troops, and after that, the building was converted into a temporary headquarter of the Red Army. When leaving the Soviet soldiers burned the castle together with all the remaining equipment. In the 1960s, only limited conservation measures were implemented, rubble was removed and roofs covered.
The castle was built on a square plan with dimensions of 75 out of 92 meters from the north and 97 meters from the south, which was surrounded by a defensive wall. In this way, a large, internal courtyard with an area of approximately 6,000 m2 was created, around which residential and economic buildings were located. The perimeter wall was equipped with eight flanking towers, from which initially not all reached full height. It was probably planned to build two more towers in the western curtain, but it were never erected above the foundations. To the east was a gatehouse, flanked from the north by a main tower on a plan similar to a square. It was the largest tower of the castle, about 24 meters high. It had four floors and cellar. The first floor, crowned with a rib vault, housed a chapel decorated with wall polychromes. The passage led to the today only surviving latrine. At the very bottom there was a deep, more than 10 meters long prison dungeon. The upper rooms had defensive functions, and the castle guards were probably used it as well. The entire fortress was surrounded by a moat, through which a timber, drawbridge was leading. Ultimately, itwas created very different castle than all others built in the territory of the Teutonic Order.
The one-storey house with cellar in the north-west corner, is considered to be the oldest residential building. In the second phase, the west range was created. There were, among others, warmed provost’s apartments and refectory, and next to the south side kitchen with a huge eaves, supported on the pillar. It was adjacent to the Well Tower, although probably a well was also placed in the courtyard. The foregate of the eastern gate and the building adjacent to it from the south also was built. Some towers were raised either. They had various forms: cylindrical, quadrilateral, octagonal; south-eastern got blind machicolation. At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, the office building was erected by the south wall, near the south-western corner. In the fifteenth century, the main house obtained one additional floor to which the refectory was moved, and from the south an economic building in a half-timbered construction was erected. Timber cloisters were perhaps added to the two-storey buildings.
One of the architectural curiosities of the castle is a large rectangular hole in the south wall, next to the cylindrical south-western tower, located below the level of the courtyard. Apparently, it comes from the Middle Ages and served to escape. A ramp was to be made out of it, by which the inhabitants of the castle could evacuate on horseback. It is possible, however, that it had simply an economic function, perhaps only the dung from the nearby stables was dumped here.
The castle, now in private hands, is in the form of a ruin. The full circumference of the ramparts, along with the towers and gatehouse have survived the war damages. Unfortunately, practically none of the interior buildings have been preserved. It is possible to visit the monument.
Garniec M., Garniec-Jackiewicz M., Zamki państwa krzyżackiego w dawnych Prusach, Olsztyn 2006.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.