Friday, January 6, 2012

Poland : Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (1997)

This 13th-century fortified monastery belonging to the Teutonic Order was substantially enlarged and embellished after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master moved here from Venice. A particularly fine example of a medieval brick castle, it later fell into decay, but was meticulously restored in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the conservation techniques now accepted as standard were evolved here. Following severe damage in the Second World War it was once again restored, using the detailed documentation prepared by earlier conservators.

Malbork Castle is the most complete and elaborate example of the Gothic brick castle complex in the characteristic and unique style of the Teutonic Order, which evolved independently from the contemporary castles of western Europe and the Near East. The spectacular fortress represents the phenomenon of the monastic state in Prussia, founded in the 13th century and developed in the 14th century by the German communities of military monks who carried out crusades against the pagan Prussians on the south Baltic coast. The fortified monastery on the River Nogat represents the drama of Christianity in the late Middle Ages, stretched between extremes of sanctity and violence.
Over a span of two hundred years, since the 18th Century, the Malbork Castle has remained one of the major objects of European fascination with medieval history and its material remains. It also became a sign of the tendency to treat history and its monuments as instruments in the service of political ideologies.
From the 19th century onwards Malbork Castle has been the subject of restoration that contributed in an exceptional way to the development of research and conservation theory and practice. At the same time many forgotten medieval art and craft techniques were rediscovered. Extensive conservation works were carried out in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following the severe damage that it incurred in the final stage of World War II, the castle was restored once again.
Criterion (ii): Malbork Castle is an architectural work of unique character. Many of the methods used by its builders in handling technical and artistic problems greatly influenced not only subsequent castles of the Teutonic Order but also other Gothic buildings in a wide region of north-eastern Europe. The castle also provides perfect evidence of the evolution of modern philosophy and practice in the field of restoration and conservation. It is a historic monument to conservation itself, both in its social aspect and as a scientific and artistic discipline.
Criterion (iii): Malbork Castle, a symbol of power and cultural tradition, is the most important monument to the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, a unique phenomenon in the history of western civilization. The Castle is at the same time the major material manifestation of the Crusades in eastern Europe, the forced baptism of the Baltic peoples, and the colonization of their tribal territories, which played a vital role in the history of Europe.
Criterion (iv): Malbork Castle is an outstanding example of the castles of the Teutonic Order, which evolved in the frontiers of medieval western Europe. It is a unique, perfectly planned architectural creation, with no equivalent in Gothic architecture. It was built with the use of the rich repertoire of medieval constructional methods; these were applied on an exceptionally large scale and resulted in the magnificent seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.

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