After the conquest of the surrounding lands by the crusaders in the middle of the 13th century, the area around Padise was given to the Cistercian monks from the abbey in Dünamünde. Soon after, they erected a small stone chapel here. In 1310, after the Teutonic Order purchased a native monastery in Dünamünde and turned it into a commandry, the Cistercian convent moved to Padise. Seven years later, the king of Denmark, Eric VI Menved, gave permission for the monks to build a full-fledged monastery.
In 1343 on the Night of Saint George monastery was captured by Estonian insurgents and 28 monks were killed in it. After the repurchase of the surrounding area from Denmark by the Teutonic Knights, they allowed the local monks to rebuild the monastery. From that moment, the importance and property of the Cistercians of Padise grew steadily. At the beginning of the 15th century, the monastery had numerous lands not only in Estonia, but also in Swedish Finland.
In the sixteenth century, the monastery did not undergo a progressive Reformation. Only in 1558, appreciating the military values of the building, the last Teutonic master of Livonia, Gotthard Kettler, took over the monastery and chased away the monks. As early as 1561, the Swedes occupied Padise, and a year later Kettler threw off the monastic habit and gave himself under the protection of Poland and Lithuania as a Protestant prince. In 1576, the monastery was occupied by Moscow, the Swedes regained it in 1580, after a long siege and destroying bombing. In 1622, king Gustav II Adolf handed the ruins to the burgrave of Riga, Thomas Ramm, whose heirs were in possession of Padise until 1919.
The monastery in Padise consisted of a church, monastery buildings forming a courtyard and fortifications giving off another northern courtyard. Chapter house, sacristy, refectory and church were located a few meters above the ground floor. Placing them on the first floor was forbidden by the Cistercian monastery rule, and on the ground floor they could not be for defensive reasons. The monastic church as the weakest defense point, was raised even higher, and under it were constructed spacious, windowless cellars, so-called Lower Church. Unlike the Flakenau monastery church, in Padise, the lower floor occupied only the eastern part of the building, constituting a square crypt with a vault supported by a central pillar. The more spacious, higher level of the church was equipped with large, Gothic windows and topped with a rib vault divided into four rectangular bays. As the rule also forbade the construction of church towers, only a small, overhung defensive turret without its own foundations, was erected on the church.
The eastern wing of the monastery was occupied by three rooms: a sacristy in the north, a chapter house in the middle and perhaps a parlour in the south. Above, there was probably a dormitory room, connected directly to the church to enable monks to quickly move to night and morning services. Most of the southern range was filled with a refectory, while in the western range there were utility rooms and rooms for lay brothers. Both wings in the corner were connected by a chapel, located in the oldest part of the monastery, a four-sided residential and defense tower.
The entrance to the compact, tightly closed monastic complex was next to the church in the south-west part, and in the 15th century, a four-sided gatehouse was added on the west side. The entire monastery, apart from the walls and later semicircular bastions, was defended by a moat.
The monastery complex in Padise is the best preserved medieval, fortified monastery in the area of Livonia. It is also a very interesting example of the architecture of a religious order, other than the Teutonic Order. The entire north-eastern part of the monastery has been preserved with the most important rooms: a chapter house, a sacristy, and above all a church with underground with Gothic vaults. Unfortunately, the south-western part was destroyed during the Livonian War.
Borowski T., Miasta, zamki i klasztory. Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.