Warmia & Masuria

This stocky, square-set red-brick fortress, adorned with corner turrets, is probably Warmia’s most significant cultural gem. Enter from the south through the palatial, horseshoe-shaped building surrounding Plac Zamkowy, which was extensively rebuilt in the 18th century. A wide brick bridge runs up to the main castle gate. Most of the interior, from the cellars up to the 2nd floor, now houses a branch of the Museum of Warmia.

The castle was commissioned in the late 14th century on a square plan with a central courtyard, the whole area surrounded by a moat and fortified walls. When the bishops’ era ended with the 18th-century Partitions, the castle fell into decline and served a variety of purposes, including use as barracks, a warehouse, a hospital and an orphanage. In the 1920s, restoration was undertaken and within 10 years the castle had been more or less returned to its original form. Miraculously, it came through the war unharmed, and today it is easily one of Poland’s best-preserved medieval castles.

The first thing you’ll notice is a beautiful courtyard with two-storey arcaded galleries all round it. It was constructed in the 1380s and has hardly been altered since then. The castle’s two-storey vaulted cellar, cool on even the hottest of days, is largely empty aside from a few marble fireplaces and cannon barrels. The cannons once belonged to the bishops, who maintained their own small army.

Most of the attractions are housed on the 1st floor, which holds the main chambers; the vaulted Grand Refectory (Wielki Refektarz) is quite remarkable. The chessboard-style wall paintings, dating from the end of the 14th century, feature the names and coats of arms of bishops who once resided here. In stark contrast is an adjoining tiny room centred on a dank, dark pit, which was once used as a prison cell. Exhibitions on this floor include medieval art from the region, such as some charming Madonnas and fine silverware. The adjoining chapel was redecorated in rococo style in the mid-18th century and is quite overbearing compared to the rest of the castle.

The top floor contains several exhibitions, including cubist and surrealist 20th-century Polish painting, a collection of icons dating from the 17th century onwards, and army uniforms and evening gowns from the early 1800s.

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