Cathedral ceilings add dramatic effect but heating a cathedral or a castle is not easy.
Created May 05 2008 by W., M.
'At the top of the house, the recreation room's cathedral ceiling wood is stained a playful red. The rich color allows fan tracery vaulting to show its special effect. The sofa faces a media center that includes a flat-screen television...'
This is now. But how was it then?
Heat rises. Forced air heating the house with cathedral
ceilings is not easy. But that's nothing compared to heating a cathedral or
a 700 years old gothic castle with the true cathedral ceilings.
Enter Malbork (Marienburg) Castle.
On a high escarpment on the right bank of the River Nogat in
Northern Poland not far from the Baltic Sea stands the largest brick
castle in the world - a monument to the rare masterly skills of
medieval builders. For seven centuries the monumental silhouette of this
impressive edifice has awed onlookers by its magnitude, profusion of various
defensive devices, the thickness of its mighty walls, the boldness of its
construction, and the richness of the carved details. Covering an area of
over fifty acres, the stronghold is actually an amazing complex of three
castles joined together into a single entity by a system of expansive
The exceptionally suitable location of the place, which served
for defense owing to the presence of the river and the vast marshes - while at
the same time making it possible to control almost the entire region of Zulawy -
was the crucial factor behind the decision to construct the castle here. Its
symbolic name - Marienburg (Mary's Castle) - seems to have assigned it a very
special role from the very beginning. The origin of this mighty stronghold goes
back to the 1270's; it was then that the Teutonic Knights (a
religious order of German origin, also called the Knights of the Cross)
commenced the construction of a quadrilateral monastery-castle. On its north
side a fortified area, known as 'Przedzamcze' (the most external part of the
castle - the forecastle - just within the outer wall), was established to
provide basic domestic services for the castle. The Teutonic Order with its
Commander (with the title of Grand Master) Heinrich von Wilnowe, settled in the
castle in 1280. At that time, however, the Malbork fortress was
not as yet any different from the other strongholds located on the borders of
the Teutonic state in Prussia.
The Order of the Crossbearers (Zakon Krzyżacki) was a German
crusading military order under Roman Catholic religious vows formed at the end
of the 12th century in Acre in Palestine. They wore white coats with a black
cross. After Christian forces were defeated in the Middle East, they moved to
Transylvania in 1211, but were expelled in 1225. The knights moved to northern
Poland, where they soon created the independent Teutonic Order state.
The aggression of the Order posed a threat to the neighboring
states, especially Poland and Lithuania. In 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald
(Tannenberg), a Polish-Lithuanian army decisively defeated the Order and broke
its military power.
The power of the Order steadily declined until 1525 when its
Grand Master, Albert of Brandenburg, converted to Lutheranism and assumed the
title and rights of hereditary Duke of Prussia. The Grand Masters continued to
preside over the Order's considerable holdings in Germany until 1809, when
Napoleon ordered its dissolution and the Order lost its last secular
At that time, the castle in Malbork was an impregnable
stronghold. Individual sections of the fortress were ringed with walls, which
not only made a tight system of fortifications, but also made it possible to
defend each of the sections separately.
The elements that were most important from the point of view of
defense, such as the gates and passages, were equipped with all the defensive
devices known in the Middle Ages, These included portcullises, inter-gate
spaces, battlemented parapets, machicolations (openings in the floor of
projecting galleries through which missiles were cast on the enemy below),
shooting galleries, etc.
For centuries Malbork was a standard reference for many
defensive complexes developed in Europe for providing
comfort amenities like hot baths and floor heating during harsh
Northern European winters.
Before and during WWII, The Tuetonic Castle at Malbork
(Marienburg, at the time in Western Prussia near the beloved free City of
Danzig), was a favorite Nazi stomping ground and birth place of the SS
organization The Order Castles, (Ordensburgen).
Ordensburgen Nazi uniform CuffTitle
Ordensburgen was also a school of the highest level of
political education for members who were to become the political elite and as
such was paid an appropriate visit by the Americans.
B-17 above Marienburg.
After the war 50% damaged structure was restored.
The Heating System of the Castle:
In the West Wing of the Middle Castle there is a little
entrance, with stairs leading down to the inside of the stove that used to heat
the Great Refectory in the Middle Ages.
The stove delivered the warm air to the hall on the ground
floor through special ducts, located in the walls and vaults.
During the castle's heyday, there were at least ten similar
stoves heating the floors of the most important halls of the complex.
The two-chamber system made it possible to heat a pile of
large, loosely arranged fieldstones until they were almost red hot and gave out
a great amount of heat.
The stones are in fact energy accumulation devices.
Rooms of lesser importance were furnished with fireplaces or
sometimes stoves covered with medieval jug-tiles (hollow burnt clay tiles).
At present, The Great Knight's Hall of the Malbork castle is
heated by Elektra VC floor heating cables arranged in 170-180
Watts/m² (15.5-16.5Watts/sq.ft.) layout because the mortar made floors are
up to 30 cm (12”+) thick.
Today, Malbork Castle with all its rich history and
many unique features like floor heating is on the UNESCO's 'The World
Heritage List' along with 628 cultural and historical
properties of our civilization.