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 basement. The manor center is enclosed by chipped boulder walls with a splendid gate structure.
The New Castle was built during the time of Duchess Olga and Duke Dimitry Kropotkins from 1878 until 1881 using the materials from an older building which stood here during the 17th century.
The master’s house was built in neo-gothic style by Jānis Mengelis from Cēsis. The planning and the shape of the house is simple. The architectural and artistic value of the castle is achieved through the successful use of Gothic forms and the color shades from the recycled chipped boulders. Looking through any window, you will have a panoramic view of the Gauja valley including the ruins of Sigulda castle. Farther away you will see the ruins of Krimulda and Turaida. On the opposite side there is a neatly landscaped yard.
During World War I this building was destroyed. In 1922, following the agrarian reforms, New Castle became the Writers’ Castle because it was used by the Latvian Union of Writers and Journalists. The building was in unusable condition after the war so the Union had to invest a large amount of money for restoration. In the 1920’s and 30’s, full room and board was offered to writers and literary types as well as other visitors.
In 1934 the castle was acquired by the Latvian Press Society. From 1936 to 1937, major reconstruction work was done under the leadership of architect August Birkhans. Building plans were completely re-drawn. The overlook tower was heightened, the terrace around the building was expanded and a new balcony was added to the second floor. Inside, a new modern-age interior design was installed. It became the most notable example of national modern design in the Baltic region. Many famous artists of that time such as Niklāvs Strunke, Pēteris Ozoliņš, Kārlis Sūniņš, and Vilhelms Vasariņš took a part in creating it. Pictures of the castle were found in French art magazines as the press at the time would report. The Writers Castle became a popular visitor's destination after the renovation.
In 1938, the monument of Atis Kronvalds, made by Teodors Zalkalns, was unveiled at the front of the New Castle. Atis Kronvalds was a teacher and a publicist and helped initiate the second wave of the New Latvian movement.
During World War II, the New Castle was used as a headquarters for the Nord division of the German army. After the war, the USSR Council of Ministers made it a recreation house for high state officials. In 1953, the Health department of the Latvian SSR established the Sigulda rehabilitation center which was in operation until the restoration of Latvian independence.
From 1993 through 2002, the New Castle held the Sigulda City council and then, beginning in 2003, the Sigulda District Council.
Next to the New Castle there is a yellow house known as the Summer Castle. It was built at the turn of the 18th or 19th century in style of classicism. The elongated wooden house was built by a master-builder from Cēsis, a man called the last of the Livs of Vidzeme, Mārcis Sārums. Initially Kropotkin's family used the building as a personal orthodox church after the completion of the New Castle in 1881. Services were held by the orthodox priest of Ledurga parish. The building also came under reconstruction when the Writers and Journalists Union obtained ownership and remodeled it to become a boarding-house.
An art gallery was installed in the former brewery of Sigulda manor. Artist Elmārs Gaigalnieks has, over the past 12 years, created the unique technique of sand art which is in continuous development. In this special atmosphere, you can view the sand art and the three dimensional installations. There is also a unique collection of sand samples from five continents.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.