St. Nicholas' Church in Brzeg is a Gothic basilica built between 1370 and 1420 during the reign of Louis I of Brzeg. He built it on the site of a former brick building, mentioned in sources from 1279.
In 1523, the town of Brzeg experienced a Reformation. Prince Frederick II introduced the Lutheran religion into the principality. In 1524, the former Franciscan monk Jan of Opava gave his first sermon in the church in the reformist spirit; having gained ducal support, the teachings of Martin Luther were quick to find recognition among most of the people. In 1525, the church of St. Nicholas began to function as a Protestant church, continuing this role until 1945. The walls and pillars of the church are of stone. It has wooden epitaphs of the rich citizens of Brzeg. At the end of the nineteenth century the church towers were extended in response to the heightening of towers in the Holy Cross Church.
After the church burned down in late January and February 1945, it was left in disrepair for 13 years (until 1958). In 1958, on the initiative of Father Kazimierz Makarska, it was rebuilt on the basis of the plans from 1370. During the renovation work, late Gothic wall frescoes were discovered in the sacristy.
The church takes the form of a three-aisled basilica with an elongated nave including a division for choir and lateral aisles leading to the main altar. The naves have vaults which are wide and dark. The main nave is separated from the side by pillars and simple linear spans, with lots of interior space. The church has fine decorations carved in wood and stained glass windows. To date, only fragments survive of the original wooden decorations. The woodwork was burnt during the Second World War; the remains can be found in the National Museum in Wrocław and in the Museum of the Silesian Piasts in Brzeg. Two of the original stained glass windows are located in the National Museum in Poznań.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.