State of the Teutonic Order

History of Latvia between 1207 - 1561

After crusades made by Teutonic Order Livs were conquered by 1207 and most of Latgalians by 1214. But the Sword Brothers were defeated in Battle of Saule (1236) and its remnants accepted incorporation into the Teutonic Order. By the end of 13th century also the Curonians and Semigallians were subjugated and the development of separate tribal realms of the ancient Latvians came to an end.In the 13th century, an ecclesiastical state Terra Mariana or Livonia was established under the Germanic authorities consisting of Latvia and Estonia. In 1282, Riga and later Cesis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera were included in the Northern German Trading Organisation, or the Hanseatic League (Hansa). From this time, Riga became an important point in west-east trading. Riga, being the centre of the Eastern Baltic region, formed close cultural contacts with Western Europe. The reformation reached Livonia in 1521. It was supported in particular in the cities and by the middle of 15th century the majority of the population had already converted to Lutheranism.

After crusades made by Teutonic Order Livs were conquered by 1207 and most of Latgalians by 1214. But the Sword Brothers were defeated in Battle of Saule (1236) and its remnants accepted incorporation into the Teutonic Order. By the end of 13th century also the Curonians and Semigallians were subjugated and the development of separate tribal realms of the ancient Latvians came to an end.

Livonia in 1534 (English)
Livonia in 1534

In the 13th century, an ecclesiastical state Terra Mariana or Livonia was established under the Germanic authorities consisting of Latvia and Estonia. In 1282, Riga and later Cēsis, Limbaži, Koknese and Valmiera were included in the Northern German Trading Organisation, or the Hanseatic League (Hansa). From this time, Riga became an important point in west-east trading. Riga, being the centre of the Eastern Baltic region, formed close cultural contacts with Western Europe.

The reformation reached Livonia in 1521. It was supported in particular in the cities and by the middle of 15th century the majority of the population had already converted to Lutheranism.

In the 15-16th century the hereditary landed class gradually evolved from vassals of the Order and the bishops. In the time their descendants came to own vast estates over which they exercised absolute rights. At the end of the Middle Ages, this Baltic German minority had established themselves as the governing elite, partly as an urban trading population in the cities, and partly as rural landowners, via a vast manorial network of estates. The titled landowners wielded immense economic power and for all that they had a duty to care for the peasants dependent of them, in practice the latter sank into serfdom.


Livonian War and the end of the German order

The Livonian War (1558–1583) was fought for control of Old Livonia when the Tsardom of Russia faced a varying coalition of Denmark–Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Union (later Commonwealth) of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.

During the period 1558–1578, Russia dominated the region with early military successes at Dorpat (Tartu) and Narva. Russian dissolution of the Livonian Confederation brought Poland–Lithuania into the conflict while Sweden and Denmark both intervened between 1559 and 1561. Swedish Estonia was established despite constant invasion from Russia and Frederick II of Denmark bought the old Bishopric of Ösel–Wiek, which he placed under the control of his brother Magnus of Holstein. Magnus attempted to expand his Livonian holdings to establish the Russian vassal state Kingdom of Livonia, which nominally existed until Magnus' defection in 1576.

In 1576, Stefan Batory became King of Poland as well as Grand Duke of Lithuania and turned the tide of the war with his successes between 1578 and 1581, including the joint Swedish–Polish–Lithuanian offensive at the Battle of Wenden. This was followed by an extended campaign through Russia culminating in the long and difficult siege of Pskov. Under the 1582 Truce of Jam Zapolski, which ended the war between Russia and Poland–Lithuania, Russia lost all its former holdings in Livonia and Polotsk to Poland–Lithuania. The following year, Sweden and Russia signed the Truce of Plussa with Sweden gaining most of Ingria and northern Livonia while retaining the Duchy of Estonia.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1207 and 1561 in Latvia

Ventspils Castle

Ventspils Castle is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Livonian Order castles remaining, in that it has retained its original layout since the 13th century. Through its 700 year history, it has been used as a fortress, residence, garrison, school, military base, and prison. In 1995, the castle was restored to its 19th-century appearance, and was converted into a museum. Ventspils castle was built in the second hal ...
Founded: 1290s | Location: Ventspils, Latvia

House of Blackheads

House of the Blackheads (Melngalvju nams) is a building situated in the old town of Riga. The original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. Major works were done in the years 1580 and 1886, adding most of the ornaments. The structure was bombed to a ruin by the Germans June 28, 1941 and the remains demolished by ...
Founded: ca. 1334 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. Peter's Church

First record of the St. Peter's Church dates back to 1209. The church was a masonry construction and therefore undamaged by a city fire in Riga that year. The history of the church can be divided into three distinct periods: two associated with Gothic and Romanesque building styles, the third with the early Baroque period. The middle section of the church was built during the 13th century, which encompasses the first peri ...
Founded: 1209 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Riga Castle

Riga Castle (Rīgas pils) is a castle on the banks of River Daugava. The castle was founded in 1330. This structure was thoroughly rebuilt between 1497 and 1515. Upon the castle's seizure by the Swedes, they constructed spacious annexes in 1641. The fortress was continually augmented and reconstructed between the 17th and 19th centuries. Sometime in the 1930s, some renovation work was done by architect Eižens Laube. ...
Founded: 1497-1515 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Riga Cathedral

Riga Cathedral is the Protestant cathedral in Riga, Latvia. Built near the River Daugava in 1211 by Livonian Bishop Albert of Riga, it is considered the largest medieval church in the Baltic states. It has undergone many modifications in the course of its history. Certainly one of the most recognisable landmarks in Latvia, the Cathedral is featured in or the subject of paintings, photographs and television travelogues. A ...
Founded: 1211 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Turaida Castle

Turaida Castle is a recently reconstructed medieval castle in Turaida. The castle was originally constructed in the Brick Gothic style in 1214 under Albert, archbishop of Riga, on the site of the destroyed wooden castle of the Livonian leader Caupo of Turaida. Construction and development of the fortifications continued to the 17th century, when the castle started to lose its strategic importance. It was badly damaged by ...
Founded: 1214 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Small & Great Guild Hall

During the centuries of German economic domination, the guilds were Riga's power brokers. The former, dating from 1384, was the home of the merchants, while the latter held the city's artisans. These slightly different audiences are reflected in the respective usage of the buildings today: while the Great Guild is home to the Latvian Symphony Orchestra, its smaller cousin hosts conferences and the occasional disco. The ...
Founded: 1384 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. John's Church

St. John's Church was built in the 13th century, probably between 1234-1297. It was originally home of the Dominican monks, but over the centuries fell into the possession of the Lutherans. It has also served as an arsenal for the city. The most notable features of this unheralded church are the impressive 15th century sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul which adorn the the 18th century altar. According the legend two m ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. James's Cathedral

St. James's Cathedral, or the Cathedral Basilica of St. James is dedicated to Saint James the Greater. It is frequently referred to by the name St. Jacob because Latvian, like many other languages, uses the same name for James and Jacob. The church building was dedicated in 1225. It was not originally a cathedral since the Rīgas Doms served that function. At the beginning of the 15th century the Holy Cross Chapel wa ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Bauska Castle

Bauska Castle is a complex consisting of the ruins of an earlier castle and a later palace. The impressive castle stands on the narrow peninsula at the confluence of the rivers Mūsa and Mēmele where they form the Lielupe river. In ancient times, the hill was the site of an ancient Semigallian fortress. The first stone buildings were established between 1443 and 1456 by the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights and con ...
Founded: 1443-1456 | Location: Bauska, Latvia

Aizkraukle Castle Ruins

Aizkraukle Castle (Ascheraden) is the ruins of a medieval castle, located on the right bank of the river Daugava. The castle was built in second half of 14th century by the Livonian Order. From 1334-1480 it was the seat of a Komtur. In 1559, Aizkraukle was seized by the Poles and in 1577 captured by the Russians. The castle was still standing in 1633, but was in ruins by 1680. Today there are seen remnants of fundament o ...
Founded: 1210-1220s | Location: Aizkraukle, Latvia

Edole Castle

Ēdole Castle was built for the bishop of Piltene between 1264 and 1267. It was rebuilt in the 16th century and from 1561 until 1920 it was the property of the Baltic-German Baron von Behr and his descendents. During the 18th century the castle was expanded and from 1835 to 1841 it underwent a major reconstruction work to become one of the first samples of Neo-Gothic architecture in Kurzeme. The building was partly b ...
Founded: 1264-1267 | Location: Edole, Latvia

Jaunpils Castle

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Founded: 1301 | Location: Jaunpils, Latvia

The Powder Tower

The so-called Powder Tower originally served as one of the Riga defensive system buildings. There is no information on the exact date of the construction, but the first tower on this place was built in the 13th century. The name of a tower - Powder, has appeared later. In documents for the first time this place has been mentioned in 14th century by the name of Sand tower. The modern tower has been constructed on a bound ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Riga, Latvia

Cesis Castle

German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the ...
Founded: 1209 | Location: Cēsis, Latvia

Rauna Church

Rauna Church was built in c. 1262, the same year as Rauna Castle following the proposal of the Archbishop of Riga, Albert II. Since the beginning of the 16th century, an evangelic Lutheran church has been operating in it. Rauna Church has survived wars, it has been demolished and re-built several times. In the 18th century annexes were built to the Church. The last reconstruction of the church took place at the end of th ...
Founded: c. 1262 | Location: Rauna, Latvia

St. Catherine's Church

St Catherine"s Church was originally built in 1252. However, it was later rebuilt with baroque style wood carvings on the altar. In this church Duke Jacob was baptized and later married to Princess Louisa Charlotte from Brandenburg. The church was given the name of St Catherine, the patroness of the town.
Founded: 1252 | Location: Kuldīga, Latvia

Dundaga Castle

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Founded: Late 13th century | Location: Dundaga, Latvia

Alsunga Castle

The first stone castle in Alsunga was built in 1372, starting with the central part of the southern wing. The authorised representative of the Livonian Order, who was subject to a higher-ranking official in Kuldīga, lived here. The guard towers and other parts of the castle were gradually added between the 15th and the 18th century. The Baroque castle with its two towers is quite impressive. Institutions in the build ...
Founded: 1372 | Location: Alsunga, Latvia

Sigulda Castle Ruins

The Order of the Brothers of the Sword began building Sigulda castle in 1207. Initially, it was a castellum-type fort; following the defeat of the Brothers of the Sword in 1236, the Livonian Order modified it. During the Great Northern War, the castle was destroyed and never restored again. The south-west section of the convent building with Gothic window lintels and the main gate tower have survived to the present day.
Founded: 1207 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Vecpiebalga Castle

In its origins medieval Vecpiebalga Castle was regularly planned quadrangular building with household part and dwelling wing. Castle was damaged by fights in the 14th and 15th century. Old medieval castle became unuseful for inhibiting already in the 17th century. There were built several wooden household buildings at it. In the 18th century castle was completely gone to rack and ruin. The new manor complex at its presen ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Vecpiebalga, Latvia

Rauna Castle Ruins

Rauna Castle ruins was the principal residence of the Archbishopric of Riga in which at for certain period each year it was visited the Archbishop with his entourage. The first mention of Rauna Castle date back to 1381, although historians agree that it may have been built here even earlier. 18th century sources mention the castle as being erected in 1262, following a proposal of Albert Suerbeer, Archbishop of Riga. It is ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Rauna, Latvia

St. John's Church

St. John's Lutherans Church is one of the oldest medieval architectural monuments in Latvia and the largest medieval basilica outside Riga. The Church was built in 13th century under the Livonian Order by the second Riga Archbishop Johann von Luves. Cesis became one of the most important German centres from 1237 to 1561. In the 16th century St. John's Church survived a few changes. First at the beginning it was devastate ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Cēsis, Latvia

Krustpils Castle

Krustpils Castle (Kreutzburg) is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Latvia. The first written reference of the Krustpils dates from 1237, when the Archbishop of Riga built a castle named Kreutz. In 1359, the Livonian order took seven castles belonging to the Riga Archbishopric, being Krustpils among them. During the Livonian war in 1559 the castle was devastated. When the Livonian state was dissolved, Krustpil ...
Founded: 1255-1297 | Location: Jēkabpils, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.

Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.

Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.

In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.

The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.