Sigmaringen Castle was first mentioned in the year 1077 in the chronicles of Petershausen monastery. The oldest parts of the castle are concealed beneath the alterations made during the 17th and the 19th centuries. The secret of the earliest settlement built on this defendable rock will never be fully revealed: large-scale excavation work would be necessary, which the extensive land development renders impossible. Judging from the many Roman remains unearthed in the area around Sigmaringen, the 12th century keep known as the 'Roman Tower' could be traced back to a Roman predecessor.
The castle remains that have been preserved (gate, great hall and keep) date back to the Staufer period around 1200. The castle remains were integrated into subsequent buildings. The foundations of the castle buildings are to a large extent identical to the surrounding castle wall.
These remains give us a good idea of how the castle might have looked during the 12th century. With defence in mind, the castle had pyramid and single pitch roofs with several towers and gates. The round window openings and friezes in the solid walls made the castle an artistic highlight of the Upper Danube valley.
No building remains of note have been left behind from the 13th and 14th centuries. Only in the 15th century did a new building period begin at the castle under the eminent and architecturally-minded Count of Werdenberg. The Werdenbergs expanded the building to the north-east. Only the lintel engraved with the year 1498, which is part of the Swedish Tower, now remains. A few years later, the building was expanded to the west.
The third building period began during the time of Count Charles II of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1576-1606). Under the supervision of master builder Hans Alberthal of Dillingen, the castle underwent widescale transformation between 1627 and 1630 and went from being a castle to being a Renaissance château.
In around 1650, the two separate buildings from the Werdenberg period were brought together under one roof by master builder Michael Beer of Au in the Bregenz Forest.
Only minor renovation and building work was carried out during the 18th century. The ancestral hall was established within the castle in 1736 (renovated in 1879). During the years 1860/1880, neo-Gothic style changes were made under royal master builder Josef Laur. The castle was extensively redesigned following the great fire of 1893 during which almost the entire castle was destroyed. The work was carried out by royal architect Johannes de Pay and primarily by Munich architect Emanuel von Seidl in a historicist or eclectic style.
The Portuguese Gallery, which encloses the inner courtyard of the castle on the side facing the city, was completed in 1902 and marked the end of this period of alterations.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.