Utstein Abbey is Norway's best-preserved medieval monastery. The abbey, dedicated to Saint Laurence, was founded in its present location during the reign of King Magnus VI of Norway (1263–1280). It was a house of Augustinian Canons. It appears however that this community was the one previously established as St. Olav's Abbey, Stavanger, one of the earliest Augustinian monasteries in Norway if not the very earliest: the exact date of its foundation is unknown, but it was well established by 1160.
At its height, about 20–30 monks lived there, with twice as many lay people working on the building, the cooking and the farming. The abbey owned extensive lands, and could feed about 250 people a year. It was dissolved in 1537 during the Reformation and was given in fee to Trond Ivarsson, a nobleman who served as local bailiff. It served as a private residence for many years. The property came under the control of the Garmann (1706) and Schancke (1885) families. In 1899 the estate was acquired by the state.
Utstein Abbey is the best-preserved monastery in the whole of Norway, still using both the church and the eastern and southern part of the ground floor of the conventual buildings. In 1900-1904 major restoration work was carried out on the church, and in 1965 work on the remaining buildings was completed. The monastery was restored under plans designed by architect Gerhard Fischer. Church west window were reconstructed, the ceiling was rebuilt with the original angle and all interiors have been restored and put in a position so that the buildings now serve as venue for concerts, seminars, conventions, etc. It is now owned entirely by the Utstein Kloster Foundation. The abbey can be reached from Stavanger in 30 minutes by road through the Rennfast undersea tunnel.
The Utstein Abbey is also well known for its role in hosting conferences for development of reporting guidelines in emergency medicine, resuscitation, and traumatology. The first Utstein conference was held at the Utstein Abbey in 1990 and resulted in the publication of guidelines for uniform reporting of data from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, the Utstein Style.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.