Remarkable for its architecture and mysterious atmosphere, Teutonic Castle whose construction began on the turning point of the 13th and 14th centuries constitutes a major draw for visitors for the town of Golub-Dobrzyń. Famous international knights’ tournaments are held there every July. The castle inhabited in the past by not so pretty Queen Anna paradoxically became the venue of the Miss Poland beauty contests being held once a year. There is even a legend which says that the ghost of Queen Anna appears there at every New Year’s ball. Rich history, power, significance… Ladies and gentlemen, do buckle up. I am taking you on a journey to the past. Sit back and enjoy your trip!
The time machine brought you back to the 13th century.
Formed in the year 1192 in Acre, in the Levant, the medieval Order played an important role in Outremer (the general name for the Crusader states), controlling the port tolls of Acre. After Christian forces were defeated in the Middle East, the Order moved to Transylvania in 1211 to help defend the South-Eastern borders of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Cumans (a Turkic nomadic people). That was the first step to move the Order to a new territory. Under the leadership of the grand master Hermann von Salza (reigned 1210–39), the Teutonic knights had already begun transferring their main centre of activity from the Middle East to eastern Europe. The order was then granted extensive rights of autonomy in the Kingdom of Hungary; but the knights’ demands became so excessive that they were expelled from there in 1225. Another reason for exile was that they also attempted to place themselves under papal instead of the original Hungarian sovereignty and thus to become independent. That was absolutely unacceptable.
By that time, however, a new opportunity was opening: a Polish duke, Conrad of Mazovia (Konrad I Mazowiecki), with lands on the lower reaches of the Vistula River, needed help against the pagan Prussians. In 1230, following the Golden Bull of Rimini, Grand Master Hermann von Salza and Duke Konrad I of Masovia launched the Prussian Crusade, a joint invasion of Prussia intended to Christianize the Baltic Old Prussians. The Knights would quickly take steps against their Polish hosts and with the Holy Roman Emperor’s support, change the status of Chełmno Land (also Ziemia Chelminska or Kulmerland), where they were invited by the Polish prince, into their own property. Starting from there, the Order created the independent Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights, adding continuously the conquered Prussians’ territory, and subsequently conquered Livonia. Over time, the kings of Poland denounced the Order for expropriating their lands, specifically Chełmno Land and later the Polish lands of Pomerelia (also Pomorze Gdańskie or Pomerania), Kujawy, and Dobrzyń Land.
The river that divided the town into two separate settlements
All you can see looking out of the time machine is a four-wing conventional Teutonic fortress.
The castle in Golub-Dobrzyń, picturesquely situated on the riverside hill, was built by Teutonic knights after 1293. In the past the town was divided into two separate settlements, each one on the opposite side of the River Drweca which marked the border for several years. During the Partition Golub became a part of Prussia while its suburbs went to Russian zone and granted the town status as Dobrzyn. The point is having belonged to Russian and Prussian zones had a huge impact on characters of Polish common people giving them absolutely different backgrounds which still you can observe. If you meet someone well organised, being on time and eager to obey rules you can easily say that is a person with roots in the Prussian Partition. The descendants of families who happened to live in the Russian Partition are more likely to avoid the rules and present so called Uhlans fantasy (English bravado) which means the Poles are very hot tempered nation. And now imagine one small town divided into those two worlds. Two different cultural circles. Two different mindset and attitudes. The border between two worlds were located in Golub-Dobrzyń.
The history of the town and different cultural backgrounds are reflected by its current appearance and architecture. The Golub’s part is much better preserved with the fragments of the medieval defensive walls and the 14th century Gothic Church of St Catherine with the interesting Gothic Pieta (15th century). The greatest attraction of the town is the 13th century large castle built by the Teutonic Knights. The castle of brick on the rectangle form is crowned with the Renaissance attic.
The castle being a host to the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen
At the beginning the brick fortress was originally both the Komtur’s office and a bastion protecting the border between the Teutonic Land and Poland.
The estate of Golub Teutonic Knights was bought from the Wiesław, Bishop of Włocławek in 1293 and soon after their arrival they erected the first wood and earth fortifications. The beginnings of a brick castle in Golub are related with the years 1300–1311. At that time, the perimeter walls and two wings of the upper ward (south and west) were erected on the initiative of the Prussian Land Master Konrad Sack. Already in 1304, the seat of the Teutonic pfleger was established in Golub, and two years later a commandry was created.
In the 14th century, King Władysław I the Elbow-high of Poland (król Władysław Łokietek) tried to gain the stronghold into his realm. In 1408, the castle was a host to the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen. In 1422, it was destroyed by an army of the Kingdom of Poland.
Repeatedly destroyed during the Swedish wars
The stronghold was rebuilt in 1616-1623 at the request of the sister of king Zygmunt III Waza, the princess Anna Wazówna, who took over the Golub starosty. Then were added late-renaissance attics, a building on the outer baily, the shape of windows was changed and turrets in the corners were added. Repeatedly destroyed, among others, during the Swedish wars or by natural factors, however, it was always rebuilt and refurbished.
In Sweden re-emerged the idea of making the Baltic Sea a Swedish lake.
The 17th century began in armed conflict with Sweden, for which the initial reasons were the dynastic disputes of the Vasas. In 1587, the Polish Commonwealth had elected to its throne Sigismund III Vasa, the Swedish son of the union of Poland’s Royal Princess Catherine Jagiellon (Katarzyna Jagiellonka) with John Vasa, the Swedish King’s brother. The latter was inamicable to the union and suspicious of it. As a consequence, he imprisoning the couple in the Gripsholm castle. It was there that Sigismund was born and brought up, primarily by Jesuit priests in Catherine’s entourage, as a fervent Catholic in a Lutheran country.
The supporters of his claim to the Polish throne having won the Royal election in 1587, Sigismund left Sweden to be crowned as Sigismund III, King of Poland. He would have much preferred, however, to be King of Sweden. That opportunity arose upon the death of his father who, following the passing of his royal brother, had been crowned King of Sweden as John II Vasa. In 1592, Sigismund III journeyed to Sweden where, he in turn, was crowned King of Sweden. Before returning to Poland, he appointed his uncle Charles as regent. The Swedes resented, however, his efforts to convert them to Catholicism and in 1599 the Parliament in Stockholm deposed him, crowning his uncle as Charles IX, with the proviso that Sigismund’s son Władysław could acceded to the throne if he became Lutheran.
A few years before the Polish Rzeczpospolita or Commonwealth became inundated by the Swedish Deluge, the thirty years war came to an end in Europe. The Peace of Westphalia which terminated it in 1648, gave Poland’s northern neighbour territorial new gains on the shores of the Baltic Sea. In Sweden re-emerged the idea of making the Baltic Sea a Swedish lake.
Already in 1648, Poland position was a difficult one, with a revolt brewing in the Ukraine and during the course of it an attack by Russian troops. At the peak of the conflict with Russia, on the 25th of July, 1655, breaking the 1635 truce, Swedish troops crossed Poland’s borders.
Princess Anna’s life became entwined with her mother’s homeland.
Princess Anna, from the House of Vasa, was born at Eskilstuna castle in the year 1568. She was the daughter of King Johan III and his Polish consort Catherine Jagellon. Like her brother, Sigismund, who later became king of Poland, Princess Anna’s life became entwined with her mother’s homeland. Little information exists on her early years but she appears to have enjoyed a loving childhood. She had allegedly mastered six languages by the time she reached adulthood. Although most likely raised a Catholic along with her brother, Princess Anna converted to Lutheranism in the early 1580s.
Princess Anna’s aunt was Anna Jagellon, the Queen of Poland, who worked hard toward gaining the Polish crown for her nephew Sigismund, and to see his sister accompany him. Sigismund was duly elected king of Poland in 1587. Princess Anna and her brother were very close and, not only was she loyal to him but she also served him as an important advisor. Her political influence over the king aroused suspicion amongst Sigismund’s Polish advisors and this gave rise to several disputes throughout her lifetime.
White Lady – Anna Vasa
Princess Anna was known to take exceptionally good care of her people, animals, plants and the castle itself. It`s said that its most truest time of magnificence to be during the ownership of Anna Vasa. It’s not surprising then that she did not want to leave all this behind when she died. She still lives in her castle as a ghost – or the White Lady of Golub. She has often been seen wearing a long white dress decorated with pearls, walking along the corridors or strolling in the gardens.
Preserved in the original shape
In the years of 1941-1944, the courtyards were used as a training base for the Hitlerjugend. After the WWII the castle undergone restoration works – which were conducted in between 1947-1953. All ruins were rebuilt between 1959–1966 and further historical adaptations of the castle were completed in 2006. To this day the upper castle has survived in the gothic-renaissance form. It stands out also, preserved in the original shape, and only slightly reduced, south-west tower. The castle houses a museum, hotel and restaurant, and regular outdoor events are organized. The tour starts at full hours, every half hour in the season.
The Knights School
Our time machine journey is terminating here albeit with one more attraction to attend. Every July the picturesque Golub-Dobrzyń castle hosts the International Knight’s Tournament, being a huge mock-medieval jamboree including jousting, music and lots of costumes. It’s quite a spectacle. During school holidays children can attend the Knight’s School.
If you are planning your holiday take a trip to the Golub-Dobrzyń`s castle into your consideration. It`s really worth it.
See you there!
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Michał Stanisławski © Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2019. All rights reserved.