Castles of the Teutonic Knights

Virtsu Castle Ruins

The castle of Virtsu belonged to vassals of the feudal state Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek - Western part of nowadays Estonia as well as part of Saaremaa and part of Hiiumaa. It was built in 1430 by Uexküll noble family and destroyed already in 16th century. Now the ruined walls are few metres high, but it really looks that there is almost nothing. That's because grass and bush is growing on the ruins. Reference: ...
Founded: 1430 | Location: Hanila, Estonia

Balga Castle Ruins

Balga was a medieval castle of the Teutonic Knights. The hill of Balga had been the site of an Old Prussian (Warmian) fortress called Honeda, that had been unsuccessfully besieged by the Wettin margrave Henry III of Meissen on his 1237 Prussian Crusade. It was conquered in 1239 by the forces of the Teutonic Order, led by Grand Marshal Dietrich von Bernheim. The oldest Ordensburg constructed by the Teutonic Order was buil ...
Founded: 1239 | Location: Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

Grudziadz Castle Ruins

The beginnings of the fortified stronghold on the territory of present-day Grudziadz go back to the 10th century. It was first mentioned in historical sources in 1065. In 1207 the stronghold was ruled by Konrad of Masovia who, in 1218, bestowed Chelmno Land and the stronghold to Bishop Christian. In 1231 the town was conquered by the Teutonic Knights. In 1299 construction of the castle was completed and a town was erected ...
Founded: 1231-1299 | Location: Grudziądz, Poland

Mouse Tower

Mouse Tower, a Gothic brick tower from the 14th century, is the most recognized monument in Kruszwica and the unofficial symbol of the town. It was built by the With the remains of walls, it is a part of defense castle remnants. The castle was founded by king Kazimierz the Great. In 1656, the castle was seized by the Swedish army which burnt it down as they were retreating. In the late years of 18th century, the castle r ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kruszwica, Poland

Maasi Fortress Ruins

Maasi medieval fort-castle was built with the forced labour of islanders. That's how the ruling Liivi order punished indigenous inhabitants for the uprising, which had destroyed orders previous stronghold. Seaside fort-castle was undefeated until destroyed by Danes. The fortress was blown up in 1576 by the Danes in an attempt to forestall the Swedish invasion and nothing was done for the next 300 years. 8m walls that ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Kowalewo Pomorskie Castle Ruins

In 1231 the city of Kowalewo was captured by the Teutonic Knights. They soon built a castle, and in 1275 they granted city rights to this developing settlement. After the complete destruction of the city and the castle by the Tatars in 1286, relocation took place, most probably under the conditions of the Chełmno Law. The castle was rebuilt in 1278. Invasions of the Prussians, Tatars, and Lithuanians hastened the dec ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kowalewo Pomorskie, Poland

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

Golczewo Castle Ruins

Golczewo castle was one of the biggest and best-built castles in Pomerania. There was even a legend saying that it was connected to the Kamień Cathedral through an underground tunnel. The first records mentioning castrum Gülzow date back to 1304. At that time, Bishop of Kamień Pomorski, Heinrich Wacholz, bought from Wulvekin Smeling and Echard Wedel­stedt the castle in Golczewo for 1200 marks, paying th ...
Founded: 1304 | Location: Golczewo, Poland

Przezmark Castle Ruins

The construction of the Przezmark castle started at the beginning of the 1300s continued until c. 1350. In the next centuries the stronghold was repeatedly converted because it was adjusted to new functions: the seat of a commune head, a prosecuting attorney and a convent. Since the beginning of the 16th century the castle belonged to the bishops of Pomesania as to later come into hands of the families of von Egmon and vo ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Przezmark, Poland

Zamek Kiszewski Castle Ruins

The first Teutonic castle in Zamek Kiszewski was surrounded by the Wierzyca and marshy grasslands. In 1454 the castle was destroyed by the armies of Gdańsk, and again in 1655 when it was taken over by the Swedes. The surviving remnants of the 14th century castle complex are its defensive walls with Teutonic keeps and a gatehouse. At the foot of the castle there is also a Neoclassical manor house, which dates back to ...
Founded: 1350 | Location: Zamek Kiszewski, Poland

Grobina Castle Ruins

The Livonian Order erected Grobiņa Castle in 1253 to protect the roads from Livonia to Prussia. It was a square type building and was a three storey high living block in the southern aisle. It also had a gate tower in the middle of the western wall. The castle was built of bricks and crude stone. Once it had arched ceilings. It was a residence for the local viceroy of the Livonian Order from 1399 to 1590. As support ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Grobiņa, Latvia

Vilaka Castle Ruins

Viļaka Castle was built by Archbishopric of Riga in 1342 as a wooden castle. At first it was closed monastery. It was rebuilt as a stone castle between 1509-1516. During Livonian war time in 1582 it was destroyed and finally demolished in 1702. The outer walls are 1.6m thick, remaining fragments of the walls are up to 2 meters high.
Founded: 1342 | Location: Viļaka, Latvia

Aluksne Castle Ruins

Alūksne Castle was built in 1342 by Teutonic Knights on the largest of the islands in the Lake Alūksne and called Marienburg (after Mary, the mother of Jesus). The first castle was constructed by the Landmeister Burkhard von Dreileben. It was part of a major reinforcement of the Eastern border of Livonia, the same year another major castle nearby (in Vastseliina) was founded as well. The initial castle was buil ...
Founded: 1342 | Location: Alūksne, Latvia

Nowy Jasiniec Castle Ruins

In the Middle Ages Nowy Jasiniec castle served as a border stronghold on the trade route from Polish to Pomesania. It was conquered and rebuilt by the Teutonic Order in the 14h century. During the wars between Teutonic Order and Poland it was destroyed and then rebuilt again in 1454. Between 1466-1772 Nowy Jasiniec was the seat of local lords. Between 1773-1846 the castle served as an evangelical church. Later it fell int ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nowy Jasiniec, Poland

Labiau Castle Ruins

The earliest mention of Labiau dates back to 1258. At that time Labiau was most probably an old Baltic Prussian village or a small fortified settlement. The first timber fortress was built by the Teutonic Knights during the second Prussian surge, around the year 1274 (other sources suggest that the first stronghold was established in 1258). It stood at the mouth of the Laba River and protected this waterway. During the Pr ...
Founded: 1360 | Location: Polessk, Russia

Preußisch Eylau Castle

In 1325, the Teutonic Knights built a castle called 'Yladia' or 'Ilaw', later known as 'Preussisch Eylau', in the center of the Old Prussian region Natangia. Ylow is the Old Prussian term for mud or swamp. The settlement nearby developed slowly, but in 1348 the Teutonic Order gave the privilege to establish twelve pubs at the surrounding area of the castle. Even though the village had only a ...
Founded: 1325 | Location: Bagrationovsky, Russia

Ergeme Castle Ruins

Ērģeme castle served as a powerful fortress for the protection of the Livonian Holy Order eastern border and as a castle-front for the Cēsis castle of the Livonian Holy Order master. The castle was mentioned in 1422 but it was built already around year 1320 under the ordinance of the Order master Gerhard von Jocke. Masters used castle as a storehouse, point of support and shelter for the night. Planning of ...
Founded: c. 1320 | Location: Ērģeme, Latvia

Gerdauen Castle Ruins

The earth and timber stronghold Gerdauen was constructed by the Teutonic Knights in 1270. After a subsequent Prussian uprising, the Knights were too weak to keep hold of all their fortresses. Gerdauen was burnt down, but once the Prussian uprising was put down, the Teutonic Knights returned here and began to raise new fortifications. By 1310, a new stronghold had been completed. At that time it was guarded by embankments, ...
Founded: 1270 | Location: Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

Gaujiena Castle Ruins

Gaujiena Castle was built between 1236 and 1238. Severely damaged in 1702 during the Great Northern War, the structure was abandoned. Ruins can be viewed in the park near the 18th century manor centre.
Founded: 1236-1238 | Location: Gaujiena, Latvia

Insterburg Castle Ruins

In 1311, Teutonic mercenaries called Landsknechts set up a camp on the high banks of the Angrapa River, close to where it flows into the Inster River. Later, in 1337, the Teutonic Knights built a brick castle in the same location. Most of the construction works had been completed by 1347. The fortress was named Insterburg Castle. For many centuries to follow, Insterburg Castle was a bastion located in the easternmost par ...
Founded: 1337 | Location: Chernyakhovsky, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.