Maribo Abbey, established in 1416, was the first Bridgettine monastery in Denmark and became one of the most important Danish abbeys of the late Middle Ages. The monastery is in ruins, but the abbey church still remains in use as Maribo Cathedral.
Originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint Bridget of Vadstena, the church was built in the early 15th century. It was Queen Margrethe I who provided land for a monastery to be built there, encouraged by her childhood tutor, Merete, St Bridget's daughter. In 1418, in connection with recognition of the monastery, the pope decreed that the town should be renamed 'Habitaculum Mariae' (the community of Mary) leading to the adoption of Danish Marienbo, later Maribo. A note from the journal of Vadstena Abbey, the mother church, states that monks left to found a monastery in Skimminge in 1416. After the Reformation in 1536, the monastery continued to exist but in 1556 was converted into a protestant convent for young ladies. When the town's main church burnt down in 1596, the convent church became the parish church of Maribo. After the convent was finally demolished in 1621, ownership of the church was transferred to the town. From 1803, with the establishment of the Lolland-Falster diocese, the church was usually referred to as a cathedral but it was only in 1924 that it officially received the status of 'domkirke' ( cathedral).
The Gothic cathedral is built of red brick as a hall church with a nave flanked by equally high aisles with a common roof. In accordance with St Bridget's instructions, to the west (rather than the east), there is a lower and narrower chancel. Completed in 1446, the four west bays of the nave (which has a total length of 60 m) are built of the same bricks as the chancel but the four east bays, completed around 1470, were apparently built by another mason. Designed by Hermann Baagøe Storck, the tower on the west gable is relatively recent (1891) but replaces an earlier tower built in the Middle Ages, similar to that in the former Mariager Church which was also built according to St Bridgit's instructions. The two doors at the west end of the building were for ordinary people: men used the south door while women entered through the north door. The relief in the gable wall represents Christ on the Cross surrounded by the sun and moon and by instruments of torture. The chancel has the same star-vaulting as the nave, supported by octagonal pillars. The galleries above the aisles and at the east end of the church were built to accommodate the nuns who had to be carefully separated from the monks and the congragation.
The Baroque altarpiece (1641) carved in the auricular style is the work of Henrik Werner from the north of Germany. The central panel, flanked by columns, depicts the Last Supper. Below Christ can be seen in the Garden of Gethsemane and, above, at the Resurrection. Figures of the four Evangelists are also presented.
The Late-Renaissance pulpit (1606) has five arcaded panels with the Evangelists and the figure of Christ. The figure of Christ on the chancel arch crucifix is from the late 15th century although the cross itself is recent. The font is centred on the church's oldest font from the early 17th century. The figures of the Evangelists are presented in relief. It was renovated in 1777. The Augustinian Altar from the late 15th century depicting Saint Augustine in pontifical attire flanked by paintings of the Trinity, Pope Gregory's mass, the Annunciation and Saint Anne.
Of particular note is the Birgitta Alter (Bridget Altar) from the late 15th century with a painting of a woman in flowing clothes, thought either to be St Bridgit or the Virgin Mary. Housed in a cupboard with two doors, it is said to be the oldest painting on canvas in Scandinavia.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.