Medieval castles in Estonia

Kiek in de Kök

Kiek in de Kök is an artillery tower built between 1475 and 1483. It is 38 m high and has walls 4 m thick. Cannon balls dating back to 1577 are still embedded in its outer walls. Compared to the other Tallinn towers Kiek in de Kök was predominant in its fire power, due to its 27 embrasures for cannons and 30 for handguns Kiek in de Kök (low German Peep into the Kitchen ) is an old German language nicknam ...
Founded: 1475-1483 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Toompea Castle

Toompea Castle is situated on the steep limestone hill in the central part of Tallinn. The first wooden castle is believed to have been built on the hill in either the 10th or 11th century by residents of the ancient Estonian county of Rävala. It was probably one of the first inhabited areas of what later became Tallinn. In 1219, the castle was taken over by Danish crusaders - led by Valdemar II. According to a legen ...
Founded: 13-14th century | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Pikk Hermann

Pikk Hermann (Tall Hermann) is a tower of the Toompea Castle. The first part was built 1360-70. It was rebuilt (height brought to 45,6 m) in the 16th century. A staircase with 215 steps leads to the top of the tower. Pikk Hermann tower is situated next to the Estonian Parliament building and the flag on the top of the tower at 95 metres above sea level is one of the symbols of the government in force. The national flag, ...
Founded: 1360-1370 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Hermann Castle

Hermann Castle (also Hermannsburg, Herman Castle, Narva Castle, or Narva fortress) was founded in 1256 by the Danes and the first stone castle was built in the beginning of the 14th century. The German Livonian Teutonic knights order purchased the castle on 29 August 1346 and for most of its history the castle was German Teutonic. Although the exact age of Narva Castle and the town cause still arguments between historian ...
Founded: 1256 | Location: Narva, Estonia

Haapsalu Castle

The bishop castle of Haapsalu was built in the 13th century. It was the main residence of the Bishop of Läänemaa. The Läänemaa bishopric was created as a state of the Holy Roman Empire on 1 October 1228. Construction, widening and reconstruction of the stronghold went on throughout several centuries, with the architecture changing according to the development of weapons. The stronghold achieved its fi ...
Founded: 1228 | Location: Haapsalu, Estonia

Kuressaare Castle

Kuressaare Castle from the 14th century is a symbol of Kuressaare and all of Saaremaa island. The convent building at the castle is the only surviving medieval fortified building in the Baltic States without noteworthy architectural alterations. The construction of the stronghold was closely connected with the Estonians' fight against the German feudals. In 1227 the last Estonian county - Saaremaa surrendered to the Germ ...
Founded: 1260s | Location: Kuressaare, Estonia

Red Tower

The Red Tower (which is actually white) is the only defence tower left from medieval Hanseatic city of New-Pärnu. It is the oldest city’s architectural monument and was used as the prison. According to the chronics, in 14th century Pärnu was encircled by a fortified wall with many towers: the round Viliand Tower, also know as the White Tower, in the north-eastern corner and Red Tower in the south-eastern c ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Viljandi Castle

Viljandi castle was one of the strongest castles in Livonia. The construction was started 1224 under Teutonic Order in place of a former hillfort. The crusaders of Sword Brethren conquered the hill fort at the place of later main castle in 1223. A year later, construction of stone fortifications started. Viljandi was chosen as the high seat of the order. The convent house, a typical form of castle of Teutonic Knights, wa ...
Founded: 1224 | Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Rakvere Castle

The earliest data regarding human settlement at Vallimäe in Rakvere come from the Viking Age, an arrowhead from the 9th century and some broken pieces of pottery from this period have been found on the territory of the castle. There is more information about the last centuries of the prehistoric age when an ancient wooden stronghold surrounded by a fence stood in the place of the present convent building. First writ ...
Founded: 1226 | Location: Rakvere, Estonia

Toolse Castle

The castle of Toolse was built in 1471 by the Livonian Order as defence against pirates sailing in the Gulf of Finland. During the Livonian War it changed hands several times, was apparently destroyed and later rebuilt. In 1581 French mercenary Pontus de la Gardie captured the castle for Sweden from Russia which had held it since 1558. The castle was destroyed again during the Great Northern War, ever since which it has ...
Founded: 1471 | Location: Kunda, Estonia

Helme Castle

Helme church parish was first mentioned in 1329 during a Lithuanian raid. Most of the neighbouring land was fiefed in the 15th–16th centuries. Livonian Order castle in Helme (Ordensburg Helmet) was probably built in the first half of the 14th century. The site on a steep hill is belived to have been used as a stronghold earlier by Sackalians in the Ancient Estonia. By its ground plan the order castle was 120× ...
Founded: ca. 1330 | Location: Valgamaa, Estonia

Paide Castle

The construction of Paide order castle was started in 1265 under the leadership of Konrad von Mandern. The original tower of Tall Hermann was octagonal with the height of over 30 meters and the thickness of the walls of about 3 meters. At the beginning of the Livonian War the Russians repeatedly besieged Paide, but only in 1573 they finally managed to invade Paide. After that it changed hands several times until the Swed ...
Founded: 1265 | Location: Paide, Estonia

Põltsamaa Castle

The construction of Põltsamaa Castle was started in 1272. Between 1570 and 1578 it was the residence of Livonia's King Magnus. Repeatedly pillages, the castle was rebuilt by Woldemar Johann von Lauw in 1770 as a grand rococo-style palace. The castle, and the church built into its cannon tower, burnt down in 1941. Põltsamaa St. Nicholas' Church was built from 1632 to 1633 on the site of earlier build ...
Founded: 1272 | Location: Põltsamaa, Estonia

Karksi Castle

The castle was probably built in the 13th century most likely in place of an ancient Estonian stronghold. The bailiwick of Karksi was first mentioned in 1248. The stronghold had a chapel dedicated to Apostle Peter. The first reference was made to a local clergyman in 1298. The present stone church, very simple in design, was built in the same place between 1773 and 1778. St. Peter’s Church is in the ruins of Karksi ...
Founded: 1298 | Location: Viljandimaa, Estonia

Kiiu Tower

Kiiu vassal stronghold, i.e. Kiiu Tower, is located in Kiiu Manor Park. It was erected in 1517 by Baron von Tiesenhausen and it is the smallest stronghold building in Estonia. There are four floors in the tower and from outside the stone wall is surrounded by a wooden circular balcony. The thickness of walls at the foot is 1.8 metres; the inner diameter is 4.3 metres. The stronghold was destroyed during the Livonian War ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Kiiu, Estonia

Koluvere Castle

The water fortress of Koluvere was established in the 13th century by the bishop’s vassal Lode. The tower fortress, convention hall and cannon tower were built later. This place has been a battlefield both during St. George’s Night uprising as well as during the Livonian war. In 1439 it became one of residences of Saare-Lääne bishop. In the 17th century the fortress was turned into a manor ensemble. In 1771 the empr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Läänemaa, Estonia

Porkuni Castle Tower

Only foundations and one gate-tower have survived of the so-called fortified Tafelgut that used to belong to the bishop of Tallinn. The castle was erected on a hill by the Porkuni lake in 1479 by Simon von der Borch. Cannon towers stood in the corners of the camp castle shaped as an irregular rectangle. The circular wall and the towers did not probably reach their height all at the same time, but in the course of a longe ...
Founded: 1479 | Location: Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia

Järve Castle

Järve vassal castle was first mentioned in 1497, when it was owned by Lodede. It was then called as Türpsali. The stone castle was dounded in 1508 and it was owned by Payküllide family until 1808. The castle was originally a three-storey and made of limestone. Today two lower storeys still exists, the other castle was ruined probably in the Livonian War or in the Great Northern War.
Founded: 1508 | Location: Järve, Estonia

Vao Tower

The tower-fortress was built in the second half of the 14th century of local limestone. Tower-strongholds were built by vassals to protect roads and waterways and to protect themselves against peasant uprisings. Construction of such tower-strongholds increased after the failed St. George's Night uprising by peasants in 1343. In 1986, the fortress was restored under the leadership of Vao sovkhoz. Exhibition on the I f ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Väike-Maarja, Estonia

Kavilda Stronghold Ruins

The Kavilda stronghold (Kawelecht) was, according to Leonhard von Stryk, first built in 1354 by Bartholomäus von Tiesenhausen. Other sources say it was built in 1361 by Arnold von Vietinghoff, the Master of Livonian Order. The castle was destroyed during the Livonian War somewhere between 1564 and 1582. It was probably knocked down before the invasion of the Poles. Thereinafter Kavilda excisted only as a manor but no ...
Founded: 1350s-13060s | Location: Tartumaa, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.