Castles and fortifications in 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jaunpils Castle

Jaunpils Castle was erected in 1301 by the Master of the German branch of the Livonian Order, Gottfried von Roga. The tower was added in the 15th century. The castle was heavily damaged in war by Swedes in 1625. Later a third floor was added and the old fortress became a manor with all conveniences in the end of the 17th century. The building was partly reconstructed in 18th century. The castle was burned down during the ...
Founded: 1301 | Location: Jaunpils, Latvia

Lielstraupe Castle

Lielstraupe Castle was built at the end of the 13th century by Fabian von Rosen, vassal of the Riga Archbishop. The village of Straupe began to develop around the castle in the 14th century. A large tower was added around 1600. Severely damaged by fire in 1905, the castle was restored between 1906 and 1909 by architect Vilhelms Bokslafs. Since 1963 it has housed a drug addiction rehabilitation hospital.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Straupe, Latvia

Slokenbeka Castle

Šlokenbeka Castle is a fortified manor and the only existing example of a fortified manor centre in Latvia. The construction was started by the Livonian Order before 1544. It was built in a trapeze-type yard, which was enclosed with stone walls and portholes. In 1772 the attic roofs were added to the building. In the 17th century towers with portals and weathervanes were erected, but Šlokenbeka lost its def ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Milzkalne, Latvia

Dundaga Castle

Dundaga Castle is a medieval castle by the Archbishopric of Riga, who gained control over the lands of Dundaga in 1237. Dundaga Castle was constructed next to a Curonian settlement (Dundagas Kalnadarzs hillfort). The exact time of construction is not known, though it is first mentioned in written sources in 1318. It is assumed that the castle was constructed in the late 13th century, and several times captured by Livonian ...
Founded: Late 13th century | Location: Dundaga, Latvia

Daugavpils Fortress

Daugavpils Fortress, also known as Dinaburg Fortress is the only early 19th century military fortification of its kind in Northern Europe that has been preserved without significant alterations. For a long time it was a defense base of the western frontier of the Russian Empire. Planning of the fortress began in 1772 by decree of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, shortly after the First Partition of Poland when Latvia ceded to ...
Founded: 1772-1878 | Location: Daugavpils, Latvia

Tukums Castle Tower

The castle tower is a fragment of the oldest building in Tukums. It is believed that the construction of the castle in Tukums was commenced in 1277 by the Livonian Order. The castle was surrounded by a 7.5 m tall and 1.6 m wide stone wall. The castle defence was ensured by an artificial, deep moat and its position on the high bank or the River Slocene. Only a small stone wall fragment has been preserved from the castle, b ...
Founded: 1277 | Location: Tukums, 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

Nurmuiza Castle

Nurmuiža Castle walls date from the 14th century castle built by the Livonian Order. The castle was erected in the 16th-17th centuries, less as a fortification, more as an economic centre. At the same time a passable tower was built, too, in the 19th century decorated in the Empire style. In the centre of the castle there is a small yard. The windows of the main facade have ornamental sgraffito framings in mannerism. In ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lauciene, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.