The name Gniew first appeared in written
sources in the mid-13th century. The history of the land on
which the town of Gniew lies is connected with the oldest
history of Pomorze (Pomerania). The archaeological excavations
confirm the presence of a number of strongholds and settlements
along the amber trail, which merchants took on their way on
from ancient Rome to the Baltic sea.
In 1282 the Gniew Land was invaded by the Teutonic knights.
It was their first possession on the left bank of the Vistula
river and an important anchorage in their quest eastwards.
The castle was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries
as a seat for a convent and commander. Under the rule of the
Teutonic Order the castle was the main political and economic
centre for the commandery (Komturei), the basic organisational
unit in the Teutonic state. Although the town council enjoyed
much independence, the Order's authorities took great care
to rule their subjects. The strategic location, which enabled
the knights to oversee the water and land trails, determined
exceptional military character of the convent's house and
fortifications of the town and castle. The economic function
of that space was reflected by numerous storehouses, stables,
manors and breweries situated within the town, the port, near
the castle and in the town's suburbs.
In the years when Gniew belonged to the Kingdom of Poland
(1466-1772), the castle was a seat of a local governor known
as starosta. The administrative district of Gniew was owned
by the families of Radziwiłł, Zamojski and Lubomirski. In
1667 the Polish king, John III Sobieski became the governor
of Gniew; he was succeeded in the office by his wife, Maria
Following the first partition of Poland in 1772, Gniew and
Pomorze Gdańskie were incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia.
The Prussian government commenced a broad-scale demolition
or, at best, reconstruction, of most of the former Teutonic
castles. Such was also the fate of Gniew castle. It was first
intended for military barracks but since it was completely
unsuitable for that purpose, in the early 19th century it
was converted into granary. Another adaptation of the castle
buildings took place in the 1850s when it became a high-security
Prussian prison for hardened criminals. During the adaptation,
which coincided with the Romanticism evoking interest in history,
the following works were accomplished: the vaulting of the
chapel was reconstructed and the original lancet arches of
several windows in the southern wall were restored, which
greatly improved the view of the castle seen from that side.
Two corner towers were also rebuilt.
Gniew returned to Poland in 1920, when Polish troops commanded
by general Józef Haller entered the town. In 1921, under mysterious
circumstances, a great fire broke out in the castle and devastated
completely three of its wings. The reconstruction of the castle
ran in two stages. The first stage lasted from 1968 to 1974,
and the second one began in 1992 to be continued until today.
At present the following institutions are housed in the castle:
The Foundation for the Castle in Gniew, a branch of the Archaeological
Museum in Gdańsk, the Hunters' Club, groups re-enacting historical
battles and events, such as St Adalbert Confratery, the Alarmtech
Yellow Regiment of Foot Soldiers.
Historical spectacles and events as well as shows of knights
in combat, which have been organised at Gniew castle since
1992, have made the castle one of the major centres for promotion
of historic knowledge in Poland. All round the year, the castle
on commission by travel agencies serves conferences, integration
meetings, training sessions, banquets and historical feasts.
Guests can choose to take an unforgettable journey back to
the 15th, 17th or early 20th century. For organised groups
of young visitors, the castle prepares Educational Weeks,
one day or longer stays at the castle to attend 'Live History
Lessons' with a visit paid by the Ghost of Gniew Castle, winter
and summer holidays with magic and witch spells, and many
The Foundation of Gniew Castle
ul. Zamkowa 3, 83-140 Gniew, Poland
tel. 058 535 25 37, tel./fax 058 535 21 62