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

Preu├čisch 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

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.