2009 | 57 | 3-4 | 340-368
Article title

THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TEUTONIC ORDER CASTLE IN RAGNETA AT THE TURN OF THE 15TH C. (Budowa krzyzackiego zamku komturskiego w Ragnecie w koncu XIV-na poczatku XV wieku i jego uklad przestrzenny)

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Research on the construction of Teutonic Order castles in Prussia in the 13th -14th c. has a long tradition in historiography. It has clarified many aspects of the topic and has helped in the reconstruction of some of the castles. So far the research has primarily been undertaken by art historians, archaeologists, builders (not necessarily architects) or German and Polish amateur hobbyists, while professional historians have not been particularly interested in the subject. Therefore, one of the shortcomings of previous studies was the authors' insufficient familiarity with written sources, which actually allow us to verify a number of assumptions widely accepted in the literature but often being only poorly documented hypotheses based solely on analyses of preserved architectural details. Conclusions drawn from the insufficient source basis led to numerous errors, especially as concerns the dating, the process of construction and the spatial layout of the castles in question. Thus, the authors of the present article refer primarily to written sources, paying special attention to their dating and proper use. The article is focused on the construction of the last of the commandry castles built in Prussia before 1410, the one in Ragneta on the Niemen (German name - Ragnit, Russian name - Neman), 105 km north-east of Królewiec (Königsberg). The castle was built almost entirely of brick; it was designed as a square measuring 59x59 metres. The construction started in the summer of 1397. The outer walls with temporary roofing were ready in five years. In 1403 the interiors were being created, but it should be stressed that not all the wings were worked on simultaneously. Because of that in 1403, when the convent was moved to Ragneta from the previous seat of the commandry, only the ground and the first floor of the western and probably of the southern wing were habitable. As to the location of particular rooms, it is important to verify the widely held claims about the castle's 'chapter-house', which in fact was never built, and the refectory, which was actually situated on the first floor in the northern wing. It can no longer be maintained that the whole quadrangle was roofed and hence the construction was finished in 1405. Sources indicated that it happened in 1406 or 1407. Apart from verifying the details, the analysis of the written sources concerning the construction of the Ragneta castle leads to a more general reflection on the drawing and realization of architectural plans in those times. The documents indicate that many external and internal elements of the castle were demolished immediately after they were built (e.g. the vaults in rooms and cellars, partitions, window and door openings). This suggests that the construction of the complex might have been based only on a design specifying the measurements of its mass limited by the outer walls, while the question of interiors was left open and it was settled according to the current suggestions of the Grand Master or the brothers from the local convent. It seems that no design of the interiors existed before the outer walls had actually been built. Written sources give us very interesting details about the building of the well (in the years 1402-1409) or of the sanitary complex (danzker) with a gallery leading to it, which were all constructed of wood (1405/1406). It seems that the outbuildings of the castle should also be dated differently than in previous studies and they were actually built in the years 1407-1409. In sum, the brick castle in Ragneta was built in an impressively short period of about 12 years.
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  • Slawomir Jozwiak, Instytut Historii i Archiwistyki, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika w Toruniu, Pl. Teatralny 2a, 87-100 Torun, Poland
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Publication order reference
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