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Sztum Castle

Sztum is a town situated in the central part of Powiśle, a region along the banks of the lower Vistula river. In the Middle Ages this settlement was a seat of the rulers who governed the Aliem lands, which formed part of old Prussian Pomezania. A written mention of a local ruler of old Prussian descent, Stumo, dates back to the second half of the 13th century.

In 1236 the fort was captured by the Teutonic Knights. Until the end of the Thirteen Years' War (1453-1466) Sztum Castle was a seat of the local Teutonic Order official. The earlier earth and timber fortifications were replaced in the early 14th century by a stone and brick stronghold. Perfectly situated and well fortified, the castle in Sztum served as a military base for crusaders staging wars against pagan Lithuania. In 1377 Archduke Albrecht Habsburg stayed at the castle, leaving his family colour as a gift of gratitude to the Sztum administrative district. He also commissioned to build a monumental castle tower, since then known as the Albrecht Tower.
During the Great War between the Teutonic Order and the Kingdom of Poland and Duchy of Lithuania (1409-1411), Sztum was occupied by the Polish army marching from Grunwald (Tannenberg) towards Malbork. After the unsuccessful siege of the capital of the Teutonic state, the Polish corps which stationed at Sztum Castle for three weeks defended the fortress against attacks staged by Teutonic Knights. Eventually, they obeyed the order of the Polish king, Władysław Jagiełło and surrendered the castle.
Since 1416, following some extension, the castle became a summer residence of the Grand Master of the Order. In the same year, a settlement located on a nearby river islet was granted a town's charter by the Order's Grand Master, Michael Kuchmaister von Stemberg.

During the Thirteen Years' War, the Polish troops unsuccessfully besieged the castle for six weeks. It was not until the 6th of January 1468 that the Teutonic Knights left the castle. On the same day, Ścibor Bażyński, whose family would later lease the castle and the town until 1503, was appointed head of the Sztum district. Among his successors in the office was the bishop Lucas Watzenrode, Nicolas Copernicus's uncle, the family of the Cems, well remembered in the history of Pomerania (1530-1636) and the family of Bielińskis, who governed the land from 1724 to 1772.
During the Swedish wars in the 17th century, the castle and the town of Sztum were badly damaged due to military actions and frequent marches of troops. After the battle of Trzcian, lost by the Swedes, their monarch Gustav Adolf found a refuge in Sztum Castle. On the 12th September 1635 a truce between Poland and Sweden was signed in Sztumska Wieś, a village near Sztum. Today, the event is reminded by a memorial plaque placed at that site. During the Swedish Deluge (1655-1660) the town fell into poverty, which was compounded by a great fire of 1683, when even the town hall burnt down. The Mayor of Sztum, Peter Mogge, offered one of his surviving townhouses to be used by the town council and the Lutheran congregation (which had previously held their religious services at the town hall).
During the partitions of Poland, Sztum became the capital city of an administrative district within West Prussia (Westpreusse). In the early 19th century Napoleonic troops stationed in Sztum, and when the Polish surge against the Russian Empire known as the November Uprising was crushed, a large group of Poles were interned here. After World War One, the future statehood of Powiśle was decided by a general plebiscite, as a result of which the region was incorporated into Germany. On the 22nd of January 1945 Sztum was seized without any combat by the Soviet Army. In the first days of February about 35% of the town was destroyed.
At present, the south wing of the castle, renovated with an aid of the Foundation for the Polish-German Cooperation, houses the International Centre of Youth Exchange, which belongs to the Sztum Centre of Culture, the castle's administrator. There are plans to create a hotel with 95 beds and a convention centre on the remaining part of the Castle Hill.
The region of Sztum is rich in manors and country houses, such as the palace and park in Waplewo Wielkie, which used to be owned by the Sierakowski family and today is converted into a hotel, the manor in Barlewice (a hotel and an art gallery) or the manor in Zajezierze. Other tourist attractions include the fork of the Vistula and the Nogat rivers with a 19th century system of locks in Biała Góra.

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