Medieval castles 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dobele Castle Ruins

The Livonian Order's stone castle is the oldest building in Dobele, and a national architectural monument. It was built on the site of an ancient Semigallian timber fortress from 1335 to 1339. A church was built and a park was laid out later. This land hosted a settlement of Dobele's most ancient inhabitants – the Semigallians as early as 1000 years B.C. Surrounded by the ancient town, there stood a timber fortress ...
Founded: 1335-1339 | Location: Dobele, Latvia

Rezekne Castle Ruins

Rēzekne Castle served as a base of the local Livonian order landlords until the 16th century and also as the main military support base for battles against Russians and Lithuanians. Archeological excavations reveal that between the 9th and 12th centuries a Latgalian wooden fortress was situated in the place where the castle ruins now stand. It is unknown when the Latgalian fortress was destroyed, however in 1285 the mast ...
Founded: 1285 | Location: Rēzekne, Latvia

Aizpute Castle Ruins

Aizpute castle was built in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Livonian Order. This was regular planned castella type Order’s Castle with corner tower and wooden buildings in the yard. In the 15th century outside at the ring-wall was built the eastern block. After the Livonian War (1558-1583) castle was not suitable for habitation and in written documents from 1555 it is mentioned as a grain storehouse. At the time ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aizpute, 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

Koknese Castle Ruins

Before the arrival of the Teutonic Knights, Koknese was the site of a wooden hill fort inhabited by the Balts. In 1209 Bishop Albert of Riga ordered the construction of a stone castle at the site, naming it Kokenhusen. For the first 50 years of its existence, Koknese was solely used as a defensive fort, but by 1277, Koknese had enough population to receive city rights. Koknese also became a member of the Hanseatic League ...
Founded: 1209 | Location: Koknese, Latvia

Ludza Castle Ruins

The first mention of the Ludza Castle dates from 1433 when the Livonian Order built a large and strong fortress to replace an earlier wooden fortress built by the ancient Latgalians. The Ludza stone castle had three stories, six towers, three gates and two foreparts. It was built as an outpost for the Livonian order, mainly to strengthen the eastern border of Livonia and guard trade routes from Russia. In 1481 the Russia ...
Founded: 1433 | Location: Ludza, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.