Østerlars Church is the largest and, possibly, the oldest of the Bornholm island's four round churches. Built in about 1160, it was dedicated to St. Lawrence. It consists of an apse, an oval chancel, a large round nave and has three storeys. There is evidence the church was once fortified, the top storey serving as an open shooting gallery. The fieldstone wall stands on foundations of Bornholm limestone. The double-arched apse bears similarities to that in Lund Cathedral. The round nave has an external diameter of 16 meters. In its centre there is a large round hollow column, six meters wide. An opening, known as the oven, leads into a small room inside the column.
Originally there were small Romanesque windows but these were enlarged after the Reformation. During the 16th century, a number of pillars were added to support the outer wall. The conical roof was replaced in the 17th century. The porch is from 1870. The bell tower stands separately from the church in the churchyard, and the bell tower was the original entrance and gate tower. There are two runestones, one inside the porch (c. 1100) and another outside (c.1070).
The church's central column is decorated with frescos from 1350 showing biblical scenes from the Annunciation through to the Passion, ending with Day of Judgment where Jesus judges mankind. Many of the naked figures are sent to hell, symbolized by a huge dragon. They were probably painted some 140 years after the church was built. The frescos, which had been hidden with limewash since the Reformation, were uncovered in 1882. The pulpit is from 1595. The carved altarpiece is from c. 1600.
Erling Haagensen, co-author of The Templars' Secret Island, believes there is a connection between the round churches of Bornholm and the Knights Templar. He believes there are similarities between the geometrical precision of the churches' locations and those of churches in Rennes-le-Châteauin France. He concludes that Østerlars, and the other round churches, could have been used as supply stores for the crusades.References:
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 official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.