Balga Castle

Gergdauen Castle

Insterburg Castle

Labiau Castle

Neuhausen Castle

Ragnit Castle

Saalua Castle

Taplacken Castle

Waldau Castle




Balga Castle...

Balga Castle in Vesyoloye (Bagrationovsk District)

The ruins of the Teutonic castle of Balga stand on a site formerly occupied by a dreary old Prussian stronghold called Honeda (Choneda). Some researchers have discovered another name of that fortress, which was 'Bolitta', a place surrounded by marshes (swamps). The monumental timber fortress stood on a steep hill. Its height of 26 meters gave a chance to admire beautiful views of the Vistula Lagoon. In the language of Baltic Prussians the word 'balga' meant something wet and boggy. By come strange coincidence, this word brings associations with the Russian name of the town Bologoye.

In 1239, the Teutonic Knights seized the fortress Honeda and raised new timber fortifications, replacing the ruined Prussian stronghold. This was the first Teutonic fortress on the borders of the Teutonic State and Natangia, a Prussian land. It was from Balga that the Teutonic Knights waged their raids to Sambia and Matangia.

In 1250, the Knights began to construct a castle, which was to serve as a seat for the administration of a new commandry. Přemysl Otakar II, king of Bohemia, chose Balga Castle as a base for his expeditions to Sambia. During some twenty years, from 1270 to 1290, the castle was completely rebuilt. The building materials included boulders, bricks, waterproof timber and lime.

The new monumental edifice was raised on a hexagonal plan, with three wings. The south-west wing contained a castle chapel. The south wing has a large refectory and the wing facing the Vistula Lagoon comprised bedrooms. All the three buildings were joined by roofed walkways, had deep cellars and secret passages. The main gate was in the north-eastern part of the castle.

East of the castle, in the outer ward, an outbuilding with a high tower was raised. In the middle of the outer ward there were warehouses. The south and north sections were turned into the living quarters for Teutonic clerks. Other buildings standing outside the main castle were barracks for mercenaries, a mill, workshops and horse stables. Extending towards the Vistula Lagoon, on tall pillars, stood a sanitary tower called 'dansker'.

From 1250 to 1499, Balga was the capital seat of the commandry of Balga (Komturei Balga), which stretched from the shores of the Vistula Lagoon to the borders with Lithuania. In 1525, Duke Albrecht offered Balga to the Bishop Georg von Polentz, who governed the castle until 1550. After his death, the old fortress began to decline. In 1701, the King of Prussia, Frederic I, ordered to use the stone and brick from Balga Castle for construction of a new fort in Pillau (Baltiysk).

The convent building was completely demolished, while much of its decorations, furniture and architectural elements were transferred to Malbork. As a result, the once undefeated fortress, somewhat damaged by the passage of time, was now an ordinary ruin, used like a quarry. At the end of the 19th century, the ruined buildings of the castle, left unprotected, overgrown with brambles and trees. In the early 20th century, Balga received a renewed interest. The tower in the outer ward was roofed and inside a museum was established.

In March 1945, Balga became the last post of defence for the Hitler armies in the so-called 'Heilsberg triangle'. The fortress yielded to the red Army after a long and fierce battle. In the post-war times, the old castle was forgotten and became an easy pray to treasure hunters and collectors of Gothic bricks. This meant progressive devastation of the buildings. Today the outer war is in a critical state and the castle chapel is completely ruined. Although the view of the castle walls can be depressing, the place still emanates an aura of mystery, which attracts a great many tourists.

On the trail of the castles in the Baltic Sea region - revitalization and promotion of the objects