Lihula – Castle Leal


   The history of the castle started in 1211, when the bishop of Riga, Albert von Bekeshovede, ordained the abbot Theodoric von Treiden to the bishop of Estonia, giving him the main residence of Leal. The crusaders were about to take the place, and this task proved more difficult than expected. After a dozen or so years of fighting and unsuccessful attempts by the Swedes in 1220, it was only between 1238 and 1242 that the German crusaders managed to erect the first stone castle, on the site of the captured hillfort. In the meantime, another bishop, Hermann von Bekeshovede, decided to move the diocese’s capital east to Dorpat (Tartu). However, Leal remained an important center, because at the same time the capital of another newly-erected Ösel–Wiek bishopric was established there, headed by the abbot of the monastery at Dünamünde, Gottfried.
The second owner of the castle was from around 1241 the Teutonic Order. The partition of the stronghold was a result of a compromise in the dispute, arising from the fact that the castle lay exactly on the border of the areas granted to the bishop and the Order. In order to strengthen position, the Teutonic Knights made it the seat of the commandry. This bi-power did not positively affect the development of the settlement and the stronghold. Already in 1251, the bishop of Ösel–Wiek, Henry I, fearing the aggression of the Order, left Leal and moved to Old Pärnu. At the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the dispute intensified, there was even skirmishes, and the castle settlement was destroyed.
The total disaster was brought by the Livonian War in the second half of the 16th century. First in the sixties of the sixteenth century, there were several conflicts between the Order and the Swedes, and later on, a series of attacks by the troops of Ivan the Terrible, the last of which took place in 1581. Destroyed and abandoned castle eventually came under the rule of Sweden, which did not undertake the effort of its reconstruction, and in 1643 it was additionally dismantled.


   The influence on the irregular, circular shape of the medieval stronghold had earlier fortifications of the hillfort. It was divided into the upper castle and double outer bailey, separated by a dry moat and a stone wall. In the upper castle in the southern wing, the main castle tower rose, and at least one chapel was located, near the gate, on the east side of the castle.
   The church of St. Elizabeth and the female Cistercian monastery. It was from the fourteenth century surrounded by a separate wall equipped with a fortified gate and probably with at least one tower.

Current state

   Until today, only stone foundations on the castle hill, small fragments of walls and basement rooms have been preserved. Entrance to the castle area is free.

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Borowski T., Miasta, zamki i klasztory. Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.