Ventspils Castle is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Livonian Order castles remaining, in that it has retained its original layout since the 13th century. Through its 700 year history, it has been used as a fortress, residence, garrison, school, military base, and prison. In 1995, the castle was restored to its 19th-century appearance, and was converted into a museum.
Ventspils castle was built in the second half of the 13th century, and controlled by the Livonian Order until the mid-16th century. The original Order castle was built as a fortress, with a tower, defensive walls, and a large interior courtyard with garrisons and storehouses. At first, the tower had two stories with a weapons storeroom in the attic, but the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors were added over time.
As a part of the Duchy of Courland, the castle was the residence of the city master, but during the Polish-Swedish War it was destroyed. The castle was rebuilt in the 1650s as it appears today, a Convent-type building, with four adjoining apartments surrounding a rectangular interior courtyard. After reconstruction the chapel became a Lutheran church (1706–1835) and later a Russian Orthodox church (1845–1901), but the rest of the castle remained largely unused. In 1832 the 3rd floor was converted into a prison, which closed in 1959. After World War II, the castle was used for various administrative purposes, and occupied by the Soviet Army border patrol until the 1980s.
In 1997, the castle was restored, and in 2001 the permanent exhibition of the Ventspils museum opened in the tower. Today the castle hosts concerts and art exhibitions as well. Visitors can also climb the tower to the 5th floor for a panoramic view of the city.References:
Augustusburg Palace represents one of the first examples of Rococo creations in Germany. For the Cologne elector and archbishop Clemens August of the House of Wittelsbach it was the favourite residence. In 1725 the Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens August to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval moated castle.
In 1728, the Bavarian court architect François de Cuvilliés took over and made the palace into one of the most glorious residences of its time. Until its completion in 1768, numerous outstanding artists of European renown contributed to its beauty. A prime example of the calibre of artists employed here is Balthasar Neumann, who created the design for the magnificent staircase, an enchanting creation full of dynamism and elegance. The magical interplay of architecture, sculpture, painting and garden design made the Brühl Palaces a masterpiece of German Rococo.
UNESCO honoured history and present of the Rococo Palaces by inscribing Augustusburg Palace – together with Falkenlust Palace and their extensive gardens – on the World Heritage List in 1984. From 1949 onwards, Augustusburg Palace was used for representative purposes by the German Federal President and the Federal Government for many decades.
In 1728, Dominique Girard designed the palace gardens according to French models. Owing to constant renovation and care, it is today one of the most authentic examples of 18th century garden design in Europe. Next to the Baroque gardens, Peter Joseph Lenné redesigned the forested areas based on English landscaping models. Today it is a wonderful place to have a walk.