Palaces, manors and town halls in Latvia

House of Blackheads

House of the Blackheads (Melngalvju nams) is a building situated in the old town of Riga. The original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. Major works were done in the years 1580 and 1886, adding most of the ornaments. The structure was bombed to a ruin by the Germans June 28, 1941 and the remains demolished by ...
Founded: ca. 1334 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Small & Great Guild Hall

During the centuries of German economic domination, the guilds were Riga's power brokers. The former, dating from 1384, was the home of the merchants, while the latter held the city's artisans. These slightly different audiences are reflected in the respective usage of the buildings today: while the Great Guild is home to the Latvian Symphony Orchestra, its smaller cousin hosts conferences and the occasional disco. The ...
Founded: 1384 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Latvian National Theatre

The Latvian National Theatre (Latvijas Nacionalais teatris) was built between 1899-1902 by the design of architect Augusts Reinbergs, becoming Riga's second (Russian) theatre. It closed during the First World War; on the 18th of November 1918, Latvia's independence was declared in the theatre building. In 1917 the first shows in Latvian were held in the theatre. The Latvian National Theatre was founded 30 November, 1919, ...
Founded: 1899-1902 | Location: Riga, Latvia

National Opera House

The National Opera House was constructed in 1863 by architect Ludwig Bohnstedt from St. Petersburg, for the then German-speaking City Theatre. It has been refurbished several times; 1882-1887 (following a fire in 1882), 1957–1958, 1991-1995 (following independence). A modern annex was added in 2001 with a 300-seat New Hall.
Founded: 1863 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Rundale Palace

Rundāle Palace is one of the two major baroque palaces built for the Dukes of Courland in what is now Latvia, the other being Jelgava Palace. The palace was built in two periods, from 1736 until 1740 and from 1764 until 1768. It was constructed to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a summer residence of Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courland. Following Biron's fall from grace, the palace stood empty until the ...
Founded: 1736-1768 | Location: Rundāle, Latvia

Latvian Academy of Sciences

The Academy of Sciences edifice was built after World War II, between 1951 and 1961, collecting the necessary financing from the newly established kolkhozes in Latvia and - as further expenses increased, collecting the finances as 'voluntary donations' deducted from the salaries of the Latvian rural population. The building is decorated with several hammers and sickles as well as Latvian folk ornaments and motifs. The sp ...
Founded: 1951-1961 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Sigulda New Castle

The Sigulda manor center began to develop in the fore-castle area of Sigulda Medieval Castle during the 17th century. There are still a few remaining 18th and 19th century buildings built during the ownership of the Von Borghs and Kropotkins. These are the Summer Castle, the New Castle, the White Castle, the vagar's (supervisor of serfs) house, the servants' house, a barn, a laundry house and a vegetable and fruit basemen ...
Founded: 1878-1881 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Birini Palace

Bīriņi Palace was built by Riga architect Friedrich Wilhelm Hess between 1857 and 1860 for Baltic-German baron August von Pistohlkors. It has two floors with higher three floor risalit in the centre. All four corners of the building are adorned with towers - three of these towers are small, decorative but southwestern tower is larger. The palace is asymmetric as this was required by the rules of Neo-Gothic. It is surrou ...
Founded: 1857-1860 | Location: Limbaži, Latvia

Jelgava Palace

Jelgava or Mitava Palace is the largest Baroque style palace in the Baltic states. It was built in the 18th century based on the design of Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a residence for the Dukes of Courland in their capital - Mitava (today Jelgava). The palace was founded by Ernst Johann von Biron in 1738 on an island between the Lielupe river and its branches. The site had borne the residence of the former Courland dukes of th ...
Founded: 1738-1772 | Location: Jelgava, Latvia

Cesvaine Palace

Cesvaine Palace was built in 1896 for the German baron Emil von Wulf (not to be confused with the von Wolf baronial family). Authors of the project were architects Hans Grisebach and August Dinklage from Berlin. The palace is built in the late Tudor Neo-Renaissance style. It is located next to the old medieval castle ruins, remains from the old bishops castle. At the end of the 19th century, Germany abandoned the reprodu ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Cesvaine, Latvia

Mezotne Palace

Mežotne Palace was built in Classicism style during 1798-1802 for a teacher and governess of the grandchildren of Russian Empress Catherine II, Charlotte von Lieven (1742–1828). Architects of the palace were famous Italian Giacomo Quarenghi and Johann Gottfried Adam Berlitz, architect of the Durbe Manor and the Kazdanga palace. Simultaneously with the palace there has also been developed an English style landscape park ...
Founded: 1798-1802 | Location: Mežotne, Latvia

Durbe Manor

Durbe as was first mentioned in written sources as Šlokenbeka manor in 1475. Built in 1671, the manor was reconstructed in classical form between 1820 and 1823 according to the project of architect Johann Gottfried Adam Berlitz who rebuilt the façade with a wedding-cake portico and Ionic columns in the 1820s. From 1789 to 1808, Ernst Karl Philip von Groth used the property as a summerhouse. From 1818 to 1838 ...
Founded: 1820-1823 | Location: Tukums, Latvia

Gaujiena Manor

In 1818 the estate of Gaujiena was bought by Baron Adolf von Wulff. Gaujiena remained the in the possession of the von Wulff family for 100 years, during which more than 16 buildings were put up and the park laid out over an area of 12 hectares. The complete manor ensemble took shape during the 19th century and in the early 20th century, and consisted of 30 buildings and structures, 17 of which have been retained in good ...
Founded: 18th-19th century | Location: Gaujiena, Latvia

Aizupe Manor

Aizupe Manor (Latvian: Aizupes muižas pils) was built in late classicism style in 1823. In 1561 the estate was the property of the Duke, who granted the manor to his counselor Salamon Henning. In 1719, the manor became property of his heirs, and later von Koskulu"s, and von Mirbahu"s. From 1793 to 1920, the manor was in the hands of the Hahn family. The manor then remained a 19th century farm complex with resi ...
Founded: 1823 | Location: Vāne, Latvia

Vergale Palace

Vērgale Palace was originally built in the 18th century, it was remodeled for the owner Baron von Behr in 1837. The building currently houses the Vērgale school.
Founded: 1837 | Location: Vērgale, Latvia

Kazdanga Palace

The first manor house was made out of wood and the new palace was built in 1800-1804 in the late classical style, designed according to the project by the German architect J. G. Berlitz. There is stone bridge, leading to the palace. On the other side of the river there are remnants of the manor buildings; house of the servants, stables, house of the steward and barns. The palace was burned down by local peasants during th ...
Founded: 1800-1804 | Location: Kazdanga, Latvia

Kabile Manor

Kabile manor lands was originally owned by Heinrich von Soblech (around 1580). Duke Wilhelm gave this feud to Matthias II von der Recke in 1619. Manor became the property of Jochan Ditrich von Behr in 1687. Since 1810 it was owned by Count Heinrich von Keiserling, who sold this property to Otto von Lieven in 1854. After the death of his son Kabile manor was managed by widow Baroness von Wolf born von der Recke. She lost h ...
Founded: 1734-1740 | Location: Kabile, Latvia

Dikli Manor

Dikļi Manor was the property of von Wolf family in the 19th century. Dikli Palace was built for Baron P. von Wolf in 1896. Covering forms of the central facade are repeating type-lines of mansard roofs' side risalites. That kind of treatment of German Beo-Broque style is not a copy of abroad masterpieces, but unique creation using international language of style and adapting it to the local culture enviroment. Mansar ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Kocēni, Latvia

Ezere Manor

Ezere Manor (Ezeres muižas pils), also called Lielezere Manor,was originally built in 1750, it has been remodeled several times by a series of owners. Since 1922 the building has housed the Ezere secondary school. Capitulation of Courland Pocket was signed here on 9 May 1945.
Founded: 1750 | Location: Ezere, Latvia

Firck Palace

Firck Palace (Firksa muižas pils) was built for Baron von Firck in 1883. The building currently houses the Talsi Regional Museum.
Founded: 1883 | Location: Talsi, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.