Toruń – Teutonic Castle


   The castle was built on the site of the settlement Postolsko functioning before 1251. Its construction began in the mid-thirteenth century, and further work on the extension lasted until the end of the fourteenth century. It was the seat of the Toruń convent and Teutonic commander. The first known was a certain Otto mentioned in 1251, while the first written information about the castle appeared in the document of the Sambian bishop Henry from 1255. It shows that during this period preparations were made for erecting the walls and tower of the castle, and in 1263 works on the construction of the castle chapel were underway. In the years 1437-1440 the commander of Toruń was Konrad von Erlichshausen, later the great master of the Teutonic Order, and the last commander holding the office at the castle of Toruń was Albrecht Kalb in the years 1446-1454.
   In 1410, after the Grunwald Battle, the Toruń castle was briefly taken over by Polish troops. When the war was over and the castle returned to the Teutonic Knights, there were bloody repression of Torunians, which deepened their hatred for the Order. In 1420 a fire broke out in the castle, but the townspeople did not help it. Some of the buildings burned down, which caused the building probably fell into decline.
   In 1440, the mayor of Toruń, being at the head of the Prussian Union delegates, while at the castle demanded that the Teutonic authorities stop the wars with Poland under the threat of seeking a new ruler. It happened on February 4, 1454, when a secret union council made a dedication to terminate obedience. Two days later, Torunians demanded that the castle be returned, and after refusing, they began the siege the following day. On the third day, commander Albrecht Kelb surrendered the stronghold and opened the gates of the castle, and the city council of Toruń immediately decided to demolish it to prevent the supreme power, whether Polish or Teutonic, from keeping troops in Toruń. These events initiated the Polish-Teutonic Thirteen Years’ War, which ended only in 1466 with the signing of the Second Toruń Peace, under which the Polish kingdom regained Pomerania with Gdańsk (as Royal Prussia), Chełmno land and Michałowska land.
   In the early modern period, the castle area was used as a garbage dump, only the dansker tower was used from 1600 as a gunpowder warehouse. Probably in this period its upper part was rebuilt. Even in the Middle Ages, after 1484, in the southern part of the upper outer bailey, the burghers erected the Brotherhood of St. George Court, also called the Bourgeois Court. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, its facades were renovated in neo-Gothic style. It wasn’t until 1966 that the ruins of the castle were tidied up, revealing the preserved fragments.


   The shape of the castle was influenced by a triangular hill on which it was built, giving it the form of a half oval with a straight curtain facing the Vistula River. Older wooden fortifications were successively replaced by brick ones. At the first stage, around the middle of the 13th century, a stone wall was erected to defend the outer ward from the north-east. Its construction was probably not completed and was abandoned due to the change of plans. At the same time, after leveling the area, work began on the brick perimeter of the walls of the main castle in which the oldest residential buildings were still timber. In the 60s and 70s of the 13th century, the second stage of construction began, during which a brick southern wing was erected, and the western fortification of the upper outer bailey, connected with an older stone curtain, began to be erected. On the eastern side of the castle an artificial canal (Toruńska Struga) was dug, crucial for the economic and sanitary facilities of the castle. Then, in the fourth quarter of the 13th century, work began on the northern outer bailey, where was the infirmary, and on buildings in the southern part of the upper outer ward. During this period, the southern wing of the main castle was probably completed. The castle received almost full shape in the first quarter of the fourteenth century after the construction of the eastern lower ward with a latrine tower (dansker), as well as the eastern wing and the main tower at the inner ward, which was additionally surrounded by the outer, second perimeter of the wall and the ditch. The last works from the end of the 14th century were associated with the construction of buildings in the main castle zwinger area, the construction of the north-west wing and the transformation of the cloisters.

   The entrance to the courtyard of the upper castle was from the west, and the buildings were located along its perimeter walls, initially only on the south side, from the first quarter of the fourteenth century also from east side. At the end of the fourteenth century, practically all the façades of the wall from the courtyard side, except of the entrance gate, were already covered with buildings. The perimeter walls were erected in the third quarter of the 13th century, from bricks in the opus emplectum technique, on stone foundations, with an outer layer of bricks laid in the monk bond.
The oldest main castle house was built on the south side on a rectangular plan with dimensions of 12×54 meters, reinforced from the courtyard side with buttresses. It was a three-story building. On the first floor there were living and representative rooms. From the east, a two-aisle chapel was located, covered with a rib vault based on wall corbels and having an altar recess. A refectory located in the middle of the building adjoined it, and the western part of the first floor was occupied by a dormitory, that is a sleeping room of Teutonic knights, probably topped with a flat, wooden ceiling. Below in the western part of the southern wing there was a barrel vaulted kitchen, which occupied an intermediate level between the ground floor and the basement. Initially, it filled the entire western part of the wing, but after some time in its eastern part two smaller rooms were separated, and the northern part was extended towards the courtyard and communicated with the north-west wing. In the main room of the kitchen there was a oven with a hooded chimney based on granite columns. In the middle room on the ground floor, also topped with a barrel vault, there were stairs to the refectory in the thickness of the northern wall. It is possible that the recess cut out in the west wall originally housed a furnace that warms the upper refectory with warm air. Other rooms on the ground floor and in the lower basement probably also served economic functions.
    In the northern part of the courtyard there was an octagonal, free-standing main tower with a diameter of 10 meters. It was built of bricks on a pedestal with a stone cornice, and the corners were made of granite and limestone. In the underground part of the tower there is a prison dungeon, vaulted with a dome with an opening through which the convicts were dropped down by the rope or ladder. The dungeon had no windows, only an opening and a ventilation duct. In the thickness of the upper part of the walls there were spiral stairs providing communication with the upper floors of the tower. The entrance from the outside was probably at a height of several meters, accessible either by a ladder, stairs attached to the tower or by means of a wooden porch from a crown of perimeter walls.

   A short eastern wing was already planned during the construction of the southern building, but eventually it was not erected until the first quarter of the fourteenth century. Its walls were thicker, therefore the construction of buttresses strengthening the construction was abandoned. The wing probably had three floors. The basement was covered with a cross vault and connected by the new southern portal with the southern wing basement and by the western portal with the basement neck connecting to the neck of the chapel’s basement. The ground floor of the east wing housed rooms crowned with cross and barrel vaults, and the traces on the walls and the chimney in the recess lead to the supposition that one of rooms housed an oven used for heating the warm air of the chapterhouse, located on the upper floor. The chapter house (which could have been a refectory, in the light of recent studies, the existence of chapter houses at Teutonic castles is questioned) was covered with a rib vault.
   All the basement rooms and the floors of the southern and eastern wings, as well as the dansker were connected by a stone cloister, which opened into the courtyard with pointed arcades. Its ground floor was barrel-cross or barel vaulted, and on the floor between the arcade pillars were openwork ceramic balustrades with the front of the pillars decorated with terracotta reliefs in the form of tracery with gables. In the southern part, at the end of the castle’s functioning, the cloister was rebuilt and walled up in connection with the insertion of the staircase, which took over its functions. It was located in an annexe pressed into the south-eastern corner at the chapel and refectory. Inside, cellar’s necks outlets were located, which needed to be rebuilt due to the difficult access to the ground floor rooms, due to the raised level of the courtyard. Fragment of the eastern cloister was also transformed, in which two rooms were separated.

    At the end of the fourteenth century, the space between the main tower and the perimeter wall on the north-west side was built. A narrow wing stood there, widening from 3 to 7 meters as it moved to the east, towards the chapter house, where there was more free space in the courtyard. Also the south-west part, adjacent to the kitchen, was wider than the central one. This wing was filled by a series of rooms located on two or three floors, the lower ones were vaulted, and the upper ones had wooden ceilings. In the eastern part, near the passage to the dansker, a slightly larger chamber stood out, covered with two bays of the cross vault and equipped with a corner fireplace, under which a very similar room was located on the ground floor. These chambers could be occupied by elder officials, e.g. commander.
   A dansker tower which was 32 meters outside the perimeter of the walls was protruded out of the corner of the east wing. Access to the tower was possible through a brick porch based on two semicircular vaulted arcades and a massive pillar. The tower itself was originally higher and perhaps had a crown in the form of an octagonal cylinder. In its western pillar there was a rectangular shaft (90×120 cm) running through its entire height. At the bottom it was open towards the Struga stream, where feces fell, and at the top it was accessible through the ogival portal. Additional latrines could be located near the porch, close to its connection with the castle perimeter wall, where three large ogival openings were pierced from two sides, perhaps originally leading to timber bays.

   The main castle was surrounded by a lower, outer defensive wall, separating the 8 to 12 meters wide zwinger. In its northern part, two small buildings were erected on a rectangular plan. The outer wall was varied: on the southern side it had a wall-walk porch on arcades, while in other parts it expanded downwards. In the upper part it was probably crowned with battlement and wall-walk for defenders. It was preceded by a 10-13 meter wide ditch, but only from the north and west, because from the south the Vistula waters were sufficient protection, and from the east a mill stream flowed behind a pond.
   Castle’s outer bailey had independent fortifications. On the west side there was the upper outer ward, lying in the depressed area of ​​the valley of the Postolec river, originally belonging to the Toruń burghers. In 1262 they handed it over to the Teutonic Knights with the right to build a mill, and the knights surrounded the received area with walls: from the south at the river banks, from the west from the city side and from the north, across the valley and along the depression, adding a curtain to an older stone wall, connected with zwinger of the main castle. These fortifications were reinforced by four towers and two or three gatehouses. Apart from the corner ones, the towers were initially open from the inside, they were built at the back probably at the beginning of the 14th century. A city wall was added to the north-west corner tower. In the western curtain there was a west gate built on the plan of a pentagon extended by three walls to the underwall street of the Toruń Old Town. It had to be at least two-story because in 1392 clothes, fabrics and large amounts of food were stored there. To the north of it stood a house with a minter’s flat at the wall, while to the south of the west gate a section of the wall about 60 meters long up to the southern corner tower was filled with a longitudinal series of buildings about 10 meters wide. Their function is not certain, but they were not utylity buildings, but houses of greater importance. In one of them relics of the hypocaustum furnace were discovered. In front of them, along the entire length of the upper outer ward, a stream flowed, having an outlet to the Vistula in a opening in the wall in the south. This area was used to erect another two brick buildings on the inside of the perimeter and a half-timbered water mill attached to the wall from the outside. One of the brick buildings received three lancet windows pierced in the defensive wall to which it stood, illuminating the chamber with a vault based on four columns. Perhaps it was the summer refectory mentioned in 1388. In addition, on the outer ward had to be located economic buildings: forges, saddles, brewery, coach house, bakery and stables.

   The narrow area on the north-eastern side of the main castle was occupied by the lower outer ward, crossed by the river called the Toruńska Struga. Its channel was timbered and along its back was a cobbled road, which the Teutonic Knights could move between both Toruń cities. Above Struga there was also the aforementioned dansker tower connected by a porch to the main castle, and using the Struga current, a castle mill worked, from the north adjacent to the tower of the Mill Gate, and from the east to the Commander’s Pond behind the defensive wall. Originally, the Mill Gate had to lead to a bridge towards the marshy valley, which in the second half of the fourteenth century, after the dyke was built, turned into a pond. Also from the outer ward side led to it a smaller wooden bridge placed over Struga. In the southern corner, the Mint Gate provided the exit to the Vistula waterfront. Perhaps along with its construction, the Mill Gate ceased to operate. The eastern section of the wall collapsed in the second half of the fourteenth century. Its reconstruction was financed by knights, thanks to which their coats of arms were placed on the battlements alternately with the shields of the Teutonic Knights.
   The lowering area on the north side of the main castle bordered both with the upper outer bailey and on the short section with the lower outer bailey. The courtyard bounded on each side by defensive walls was led by the northern gate of the upper outer bailey, while towards the New Town of Toruń a four-sided gatehouse called Tannery Gate was directed. In the southern part of the lower outer ward there was a castle infirmary building – erected on a rectangular plan, multi-storey, with basement, covered with a gable roof.

Current state

     Today’s castle is preserved as a ruin. From the buildings of the main castle up to now dansker (toilet tower) with the porch leading to it, the moat, the lower parts of the walls and the octagonal tower and basements have preserved. In the area of the outer wards, buildings related to the castle have survived: a mill and significant sections of the walls of the lower outer ward with Mill and Mint gates, as well as fragments of the walls of the upper outer ward with the southern tower and the Bourgeois Court, transformed in the 19th century. Castle ruins can be visited from March to October on every day: 10.00-18.00, and in the period from November to February in the hours: 10.00-16.00.

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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.
Zamek krzyżacki w Toruniu XIII-XXI wiek, red. M.Rubnikowicz, Toruń 2017.