The best preserved Gothic castle in Pomerania
Not only Malbork has its castle of the Teutonic Order. An awe-inspiring and fully restored castle is also located in Gniew, a town near the Vistula, in the Pomorskie voivodeship, Tczew poviat. In that very town, at Plac Zamkowy 2 there is a Branch of the Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk.
The origins of the castle and its expansion
The construction of the castle started in 1283. Supervision over the entire works was entrusted to Dietrich von Spira, the first komtur of Gniew. Its completion took approximately 40 years.
About 1290 a 6-metre rectangular external wall was erected. Three square turrets were added in the corners and the north-east corner received a huge bergfried that is a tower of the final defence. At the time the south and north residential wings were also created.
In the first half of the 14th century the walls and turrets were extended and the inner courtyard from the west and east side was closed with two buildings.
The last stage of works was connected with adaptation of the stronghold to a permanent residence of the Grand Master, Michał Kuchmeister. At the time the chapel was extended at the cost of the guardhouses and south from the convent house (a type of a religious house) a defensive castle settlement surrounded with a wall with a fortified tower and two gate towers were set up.
The castle under the Polish rule
In 1466, under the Peace of Thorn, the castle was seized by the Poles and became a starosty seat. In the second half of the 17th century the Gniew starost was Jan Sobieski, who, before becoming the king, built a new baroque building in the castle settlement for his wife, Maria Kazimiera.
The stronghold changes its owner
In 1772, the Prussian troops entered Gniew and seized the castle. Since then it was used for military purposes and after that served as a grain storage, which involved a new layout of storeys.
In 1855, the castle settlement's walls were partially pulled down and the bergfried was demolished, replaced with a smaller one, similar to other three turrets.
Another modernisation took place between 1856 and 1859; it was connected with the fact that now the building was to serve as a prison. Later it became famous for being one of the toughest prisons in the entire Prussia. The works involved removal of plasters, rebuilding the chapel dome, pulling down the dansker (tower outside the defensive walls) and cutting new windows.
The castle seized by the Poles
Such was the condition of the castle when, in 1920, it was taken over by the Polish administration, became the starosty seat, and after that an ammunition storage. During a fire in 1921 three wings of the building and the roof of the stronghold were destroyed. During occupation the castle served as a paramilitary school for youth and after that a temporary prison for Poles.
Castle under the Museum's custody
In 1968, the castle saw first restoration works. The Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk became involved in the works in 1992. Only one year later, after the final clearing of debris and adopting the cellar under the south wing, the castle housed its first exhibition called "Gniew in the light of the excavation works between 1975 and 1985".
On 27th January 1995, after three years of endeavours, under the decision issued by the Gdańsk Voivode, Maciej Płażyński, the Branch of the Museum in the Gniew Castle was officially established. The new institution took the west wing of the castle and, apart from its exhibition and scientific activities, it also became a partner of the contests and historical events organized in the castle.
On 15th July 1998, the "Grunwald 1410" multimedia exhibition on the battle of Grunwald was opened, and in 2010 a new exhibition titled "Everyday life at a medieval castle".
The central element of "Grunwald 1410" is a painting by Stefan Garwatowski featuring the beginning of the battle; its course is described in a special audio play.
"Everyday life at a medieval castle" is an exhibition on medieval times showing craft workshops and everyday items.
"Feature metalwork" gallery comprises exhibits given by metalworkers during the "International show of feature metalwork" organized between 1992 and 2004.