Narva – Hermann Castle


   The Narva castle was the northernmost defensive point of the Teutonic Order. It was an important element constituting the gate of the entire region and guarded the trade route from the Gulf of Finland to Novgorod and Pskov. The castle appeared on the pages of history in 1277, it was still a Danish property at the time. Most probably, then, or a few years later, the first stone fortifications were erected, which, however, did not stop the invasion of Ruthenian troops in 1294. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Danes extended the castle by surrounding it with an additional ring of walls and erecting the main tower. It was probably also then, that the outer bailey was fortified.
In the mid-fourteenth century, Denmark was forced to sell its Estonian estates to the Teutonic Order. It did not decide to establish a commandry in Narva, teutonic vogt was the head of the Order here. The first known by name was Arnd von Altena, residing around 1370. During his and his successors, the castle was significantly expanded, the tower was raised and the west wing and the north wing were added. The fortifications were so powerful that in 1492 the Grand Duchy of Moscow, instead of attempting to conquer, decided to build on its opposite side its own stronghold, Ivangorod.
In 1588, the troops of Ivan the Terrible crossed the river and occupied the town with the castle. It was only after 13 years that it was recaptured by the Swedes and remained in their possession until the beginning of the 18th century. Although in 1700 king Karol XII near Narva achieved a brilliant victory over the army of tsar Peter the Great, but eventually lost the war and four years later the castle for 200 years got under Russian rule. The Second World War brought the destruction of the town, the castle was a bit more fortunate, although it was seriously damaged (the eastern part of the tower, the north-eastern corner of the upper castle), but it was carefully rebuilt.


   The castle was situated on the high, western bank of the Narva River, and also south of the later developed town. In the fourteenth century, it consisted of the upper part and a large outer bailey separated by a ditch on the west side and a smaller one on the north side.
   The upper ward was a quadrangle with a massive tower from the north-west side called High Hermann, with a height of over 50 meters and wall thickness 4 meters. On the western and northern sides were the oldest residential wings. The west wing received the earliest stone vaults on the ground floor and on the most important, first floor. In this wing there was a refectory and dormitory. Quite unusually for the Teutonic castles, dormitory was on the ground floor. At the west wing, a dansker tower protruding from the face of the wall was added at a later time. The first floor of the north wing was occupied by private chambers of monastic officials. The chapel was placed on the first floor of the castle tower. The communication was provided by a wooden porch attached from the outside on the courtyard. The original gate was located on the west side, however, in the fourteenth century it was walled up and the new one was pierced from the north. There is no certainty what the eastern side of the fortifications looked like, protected by a steep slope and a river, at first only wooden fortifications could be here.

   In the fifteenth century, the whole east wing of the upper ward was added, and at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the last south wing. In the fifteenth century, the castle was also strengthened by two low, four-sided towers: one at the western curtain, the other at the eastern wall. The latter towered over the river banks, it had a latrine function and housed a well. The both outer wards also obtained fortifications. The smaller one on the north side was squeezed between the castle, town and river. From the west it bordered with a second, much more extensive outer ward, protected by two cylindrical corner towers and another in the southern curtain. Two gates led to it: the northern one overlooking the town and the south-western one, which led directly outside the fortifications of Narva.

Current state

   The stronghold in Narva is today one of the best preserved castles in Estonia and together with the Iwanogrod located on the other side of the border river, it is a great view. The castle was rather thoroughly rebuilt after the war damages, although some errors were not avoided, for example preserved Renaissance windows were used as a model for reconstructing Gothic windows. Currently, you can visit the museum at the castle, which explains the history of the town and the fortress. In the northern courtyard there are craft workshops in which you can buy souvenirs and folk products, often there are also outdoor performances.

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