Medieval castles in Russia

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

Waldau Castle Ruins

The earliest official mention of building a fortress in Waldau comes from a chronicle dating to 1258. The name of the castle derives from the Baltic Prussian language, where it meant "to own". And in fact, the surrounding lands belonged to two Prussian landowners: Brulant and Diabel, who were called "tenants" or "dukes". In 1264, the dukes were obliged by the Teutonic Knights to set up an inn ...
Founded: 1258 | Location: Nizov'e, 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

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

Neuhausen Castle Ruins

The first reliable mention of Neuhausen dates back to 1292, when Bishop Christian von Mühlhausen ordered to raise a fortified castle in this location. Following the reformation of the Catholic Church in Prussia in 1525 the castle became a property of Albrecht Hohenzollern of Brandenburg. The Duke had the castle completely redesigned, converting it into a suburban hunters manor. In 1550, when the Duke had made a decis ...
Founded: 1292 | Location: Guryevsky, Russia

Porkhov Fortress

First record about Porkhov fortress was made in Novgorod"s chronicles in 1239. Knight of Novgorod Alexander Jaroslavovitch ('Nevsky') established the trade way along Shelonj river from Novgorod to Pskov by building of small wooden strong points. Porkhov fortress was one of them. Its fortifications consisted two lines of earthen ramparts and ditches and wooden wall above the ramparts. In 1346 Great Lithuani ...
Founded: 1387 | Location: Porkhov, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.