The castle in Bytów was built by the Teutonic
Knights in 1398-1405. The major construction works were supervised
by Nicolaus Fellensteyn, a master builder of the Order. The
construction of the castle fell to the period when Jacob von
Reinach was the procurator of Bytów and Konrad von Jungingen
was the Order's Grand Master. The castle was located on a
hill, towering above the town, which guaranteed excellent
natural defence. The castle, very modern for those days, was
a seat of the local administration officials, a border fort
and a stopover for knights arriving from western Europe to
Malbork. The seat of the Bytów procurator, the castle, most
probably housed from a few to more than a dozen knights accompanied
by their pages and lansquenets. The complete crew of the castle
could count a few dozens.
During the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466) Bytów Castle was
ceded by the townspeople of Gdańsk to the Polish King, Kazimierz
Jagiellończyk. In 1454 it was granted by the King to the Duke
of Pomerania, Eric II, whose family, the Gryfits, ruled the
castle and the lands of Bytów until the death of the last
member of the dynasty, Bogusław XIV.
The castle, enlarged by the Gryfit dukes in the second half
of the 16th century, became a seat of the local administration
officials in the early 17th century and a summer residence
of Pomeranian dukes. Around 1560 the castle court was redone
and the construction of a new wing, known as the Ducal House,
was undertaken. Once it had been completed, an identical,
although smaller building was constructed adjacent to the
curtain walls. This one was named the Ducal Chancery. Both
exquisite buildings with imposing stairway towers turned the
fortress into a Renaissance residence.
In 1637-1657 the castle and the land of Bytów were administered
by Polish officials. Badly damaged by Swedish troops in 1656,
the castle and the lands of Lębork and Bytów were ceded, by
the power of the Welawa-Bydgoszcz treaty, to Frederic Wilhelm
I, Elector of Brandenburg. When the Brandenburgians arrived,
they found the castle and the town, as well as many of the
nearby villages damaged and looted by the Swedes in 1656.
The Gunpowder Tower had been then blown up and most of the
castle buildings burnt, leaving only the external walls. Despite
many efforts, the castle has never been brought back to its
The castle, which had also lost its earlier functions, was
then used to house a court of justice and a treasury office.
Some if the castle buildings were converted into apartments,
some changed into storehouses and workshops. After 1930 the
German state authorities designated the castle to serve as
a training centre and a hostel for youths. The renovation
and adaptation works which were then started stopped at the
outbreak of World War Two.
In the 1960s the renovation of the castle was resumed and
eventually the east wing, which had been restored first, was
opened in 1974, housing a new municipal public library. The
south wing, where the Zamek Hotel and a restaurant (www.hotelzamek.com.pl)
are located, was opened in 1980.
The north wing, renovated in 1991, provided room for the Museum
of Western Kashubia. The Museum has 15 exhibition rooms on
three storeys of the former Monastic House and on the two
topmost floors of the Mill Tower. The permanent exhibitions
show examples of material culture of the Kashubians and collections
of art objects and historical mementos, including some relics
of the interior design of St George church in Bytów, portraits
of dukes of Pomerania, armoury and weaponry. The last floor
of the Mill Tower contains an exhibition which documents the
history of Bytów castle and its reconstruction.
The Museum of Western Kashubia
ul. Zamkowa 2, 77-100 Bytów, Poland
tel. 059 822 26 23