St. Magnus Cathedral was founded as a final resting place for the relics of St. Magnus. Work on its construction started in 1137. The Cathedral's founder was Earl Rognvald who supervised the earliest stages of the building during the bishopric of William the Old of Orkney (1102-1168).
Between 1154 and 1472, Orkney was ecclesiastically under the Norwegian archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim) and after that it became part of the Scottish province of St. Andrews. The Cathedral was assigned to the inhabitants of Kirkwall by King James III of Scotland in a charter dated 1486. One of the most notable bishops was Bishop Robert Reid who held the see of Orkney between 1541 and 1558.
The Reformation brought ruin to many cathedrals but St. Magnus Cathedral seems to have emerged relatively unscathed, although the organ, treasures and rich vestments were removed and the wall decorations were covered in whitewash.
In 1845 the Government presumed the ownership of the Cathedral, expelling the then congregation and carrying out major restoration work to the fabric of the building. In 1851 the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall re-established ownership of the building and the choir and presbytery were fitted with new pews and galleries for the reinstated congregation.
The Cathedral slowly deteriorated until the early 20th century when The Thoms Bequest made further major restoration possible. Between 1913 and 1930, the main alteration to the exterior of the Cathedral was the erection of a tall steeple which replaced the low pyramidal roof of the bell tower. Internally, the screen separating the choir from the nave was removed, along with the pews and galleries. Stained glass windows replaced the formerly plain windows, much of the floor was tiled and the warm red sandstone was revealed by the removal of plaster and whitewash.
Today St. Magnus Cathedral is a popular tourist destination. The great age of much of its structure means it has smaller windows than those found in more modern churches. The tall narrow nave gives the illusion of much greater size than is actually the case. Uniquely in Britain, the Cathedral has a dungeon or holding pen built between the south wall of the choir and the south transept chapel. It is known as Marwick's Hole, but the source of this name and the time of its origin are unknown.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.