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 built of wood. Later, the outer walls were constructed of fieldstone and the convent house of bricks. The plan is in many ways similar to that of Viljandi Castle, including the convent building with a flanking tower. The outer wall originates partly from the same time as the convent house, partly from later periods, notably from the time of the political tensions in early 16th century. The main gate, protected by two round towers, is also of late medieval origin. Later, at the end of 17th century, the castle was supplied with ravelines and ramparts.
The strength of the castle was repeatedly proven by repelling a number of attacks in 16th century. Alūksne was captured by the troops of Ivan IV of Russia in 1560 during the Livonian War. It was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1582. The town became part of the Swedish Empire in 1629.
After the fall of the Old Livonia, the castle remained habitable. It was finally destroyed 1702 in the Great Northern War by its Swedish garrison to avoid falling in the hands of Russians. The ruins remained largely untouched. Today, it houses an open-air scene and forms a part of a recreational area of the Pils (Castle) Island.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.