There were a number of other Marienburg (Mary's Castles) built.
The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress; it is the world’s largest brick gothic castle and one of the most impressive of its kind in Europe. The castle and its museum are listed as UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, being added to the register in December 1997 as Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, as one of two sites in the region which owes its origins to the Teutonic Order, the Medieval Town of Toruń being the other, founded in 1231 as the site of their castle Thorn (Toruń).
The castle was founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Order during their government in Prussia and is located on the Southeastern bank of the river Nogat. It was named Marienburg after the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the Order.
The Order had been based in Acre, but when this last stronghold of the Crusades fell, the Order had to move its headquarters to Venice. In 1309, in the wake of both the papal persecution of the Knights Templar as well as the Teutonic takeover of Danzig, the Order under Siegfried von Feuchtwangen moved its headquarters into the Prussian part of their monastic state. They chose the Marienburg, conveniently located at the Nogat, in the Vistula Delta, which allows access by ship.
The castle was expanded several time to host the growing number of Knights, and became the largest fortified Gothic building in Europe, featuring several sections and walls. It comprises three separate sections- the High, Middle and Low Castles, separated by multiple dry moats and towers. The castle once housed approximately 3,000 "brothers in arms", and the outermost castle walls enclose 52 acres (210,000 m²), four times larger than the enclosed space of Windsor Castle.
The favourable position of the castle on the river Nogat and its relatively flat surrounding allowed for easy access by barges and trading ships, from the Vistula and the Baltic Sea. During their governance, the Teutonic Knights collected river tolls on passing ships, as did other castles along the rivers, imposing a monopoly on the trade of amber. When the city became a member of the Hanseatic League, many Hanseatic meetings were held at the Marienburg.
In summer of 1410, the castle was besieged following defeat at the Battle of Grunwald, but Heinrich von Plauen successfully led the defense of the castle during the Siege of Marienburg (1410) during which the city itself was razed.
In 1456, during the Thirteen Years' War started by a rebellion of the cities organized as Prussian Confederation, the Order, deserted and opposed for having implemented taxes in order to pay the high ransom for prisoners taken by the Polish king, could not pay its mercenary troops after two years of warfare. Hochmeister Ludwig von Erlichshausen moved the seat of the Order to Königsberg, and handed over possession of the castle to the soldiers from Bohemia, as a substitute for their wages. The mercenaries left after having sold the castle to King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland, who thus acquired the castle neither he nor his predecessor could conquer by force. He entered the castle triumphantly in 1457 without opposition.
Under mayor Bartholomäus Blume, the city itself resisted the Polish onslaught for an additional three years, until he himself was captured and hanged in 1460. A monument to him was erected in 1864. Castle and town became part of Royal Prussia in 1466, and served as one of the several Polish royal residences. During the Thirty Years' War, in 1626 and 1629, Swedes occupied the castle, and again from 1656 to 1660 in The Deluge (Polish history) during the Northern Wars.
After the First Partition of Poland in 1772 the town became part of the Kingdom of Prussia province of West Prussia. At that time the rather ruined castle was used as poorhouse and barracks of the Prussian Army. In 1794 the Prussian architect and head of the Oberbaudepartement, David Gilly, was ordered to make a structural survey of the remains, to decide about a future use or complete demolition of the castle. Gilly's son, Friedrich Gilly, produced several engravings of the castle and its architecture, exhibited in Berlin and published by Friedrich Frick in 1799 - 1803. These engravings caused the "rediscovery" of the castle and the history of the Teutonic Knights by the Prussian public.
Johann Dominicus Fiorillo published a recension of the engravings on 12 February 1803 and stated, he wished these images would encourage a larger public interest and Max von Schenkendorf critizised the defacement of the castle. Throughout the Napoleonic time the castle was used as a hospital and arsenal but after Prussia was liberated again, the castle became a symbol of Prussian history and national consciousness. The reconstruction began after 1816 on the initiative of Theodor von Schön, Oberpräsident of West Prussia, and lasted with varying intensity until World War II started.
In 1945, the castle was over 50% destroyed as a result of World War II, and again damaged by a fire in 1959. The castle has been mostly reconstructed and restoration has been ongoing since 1962. However, the main cathedral in the castle, fully restored just prior to the war, remains in its ruined state as destroyed during the war.
Burials in the mausoleum under the Chapel of St. Anne
- Dietrich von Altenburg
- Heinrich Dusemer
- Winrich von Kniprode
- Conrad Zöllner von Rothenstein
- Konrad von Jungingen
- Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg
- Konrad von Erlichshausen