Ruins in 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

Krimulda Castle Ruins

The Krimulda Castle dates from the 14th century and was destroyed in a war in 1601. During the 13th century the left bank of the Gauja river was governed by the Order of the Brethren of the Sword, (later known as the Order of Livonia), while the territories on the right bank were under the domain of the Archbishop of Riga. Krimulda castle belonged to the Riga High Council which was a group of twelve high priests who advis ...
Founded: ca. 1255 | Location: Sigulda, 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

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

Kandava Castle Ruins

Kandava settlement was first mentioned in 1230 in a peace treaty between the residents of Riga and the residents of the Abava valley in Courland. A military castle was built around 1257, but it was gradually dismantled over the years and now only its foundations can be seen in a town park. The oldest remaining structure is a guard tower built in 1334 and later used for gunpowder storage.
Founded: c. 1257 | Location: Kandava, 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

Lielvarde Castle

Lielvārde Castle was built by Riga Archbishop at the steep bank of Daugava River, overseeing this important medieval waterway. It was first mentioned in 1248 and destroyed by Russian troops in 1579. Conserved ruins up to the level of second floor.
Founded: ca. 1248 | Location: Lielvārde, Latvia

Burtnieki Castle Ruins

Burtnieki was a site of a Livonian Order castle, built in 1284. The house was burned down in the 16th century, during the Livonian War. A part of stone wall on the southern side remains.
Founded: 1284 | Location: Burtnieki, Latvia

Dinaburga Castle Ruins

Dinaburga Castle was strategically situated on a high bank of the Daugava river. It was built between 1273 and 1277 by the Livonian Order, and destroyed by Russian troops before 1577. Nowadays, fragments of the foundation are exposed.
Founded: 1273-1277 | Location: Naujene, Latvia

Grobina Castle Ruins

The Livonian Order erected Grobiņa Castle in 1253 to protect the roads from Livonia to Prussia. It was a square type building and was a three storey high living block in the southern aisle. It also had a gate tower in the middle of the western wall. The castle was built of bricks and crude stone. Once it had arched ceilings. It was a residence for the local viceroy of the Livonian Order from 1399 to 1590. As support ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Grobiņa, 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

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

Ikskile Church Ruins

Canon Meinard of the Augustinian Order of Segeberg monastery in Holstein started to build a church in Ikskile in 1184. Until the foundation of Riga in 1201 the church was the seat of the Bishop of Livonia, thoroughly rebuilt from 1879 - 1881 and destroyed in 1916.
Founded: 1184 | Location: Ikšķile, Latvia

Ergeme Castle Ruins

Ērģeme castle served as a powerful fortress for the protection of the Livonian Holy Order eastern border and as a castle-front for the Cēsis castle of the Livonian Holy Order master. The castle was mentioned in 1422 but it was built already around year 1320 under the ordinance of the Order master Gerhard von Jocke. Masters used castle as a storehouse, point of support and shelter for the night. Planning of ...
Founded: c. 1320 | Location: Ērģeme, Latvia

Gaujiena Castle Ruins

Gaujiena Castle was built between 1236 and 1238. Severely damaged in 1702 during the Great Northern War, the structure was abandoned. Ruins can be viewed in the park near the 18th century manor centre.
Founded: 1236-1238 | Location: Gaujiena, Latvia

Aluksne Castle Ruins

Alūksne Castle was built in 1342 by Teutonic Knights on the largest of the islands in the Lake Alūksne and called Marienburg (after Mary, the mother of Jesus). The first castle was constructed by the Landmeister Burkhard von Dreileben. It was part of a major reinforcement of the Eastern border of Livonia, the same year another major castle nearby (in Vastseliina) was founded as well. The initial castle was buil ...
Founded: 1342 | Location: Alūksne, 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

Salacgriva Castle Ruins

Salacgrīva was a medieval castle built in 1226 by the bishopric of Riga. The three-tower castle served as an outpost to control access to the port of Salaca. It was captured in 1391, burned in 1564 and again drastically damaged in 1575 by Russian and Tartar warriors who fought side by side with the troops of Duke Magnus of Holstein. In 1581, Salacgrīva castle was attacked by the Swedish troops of Commander Thom ...
Founded: 1226 | Location: Salacgrīva, Latvia

Embute Castle Ruins

Embūte Castle ruins are located not far from an ancient castle hill erected by Curonians which was an ancient Curonian settlement and is mentioned in ancient chronicles as a place with strong Curonian resistance to German crusaders. Embūte Castle was built in the middle of the 13th century as residence for the Bishop of Courland. It came in the hands of the Livonian Order for a short period, but in the end of t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Embūte, 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

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.