Põltsamaa – Teutonic Castle Oberpahlen


   The construction of the teutonic castle in Oberpahlen began in 1272, and its basic shape was formed in the fourteenth century. In the Middle Ages it was one of the most important centers controlled by the order in the north-eastern part of central Estonia and an important point on the trade route connecting Rewel (Tallinn) with Dorpat (Fellin). The first teutonic vogt confirmed by source was Reinbert, who was in office around 1305.
In the sixteenth century, the castle was lost to the army of Ivan the Terrible. Oberpahlen was then declared the capital of the kingdom of Livonia by the self-proclaimed king Magnus, the brother of the king of Denmark and the ally of Ivan the Terrible. The attempt broke down quickly, and after the defeat of Moscow, Oberpahlen was transformed into the seat of the Polish eldership. From 1621, the real power over the castle was owned by Sweden, under whose rule the stronghold lost all military significance. In the first half of the 17th century, the castle was renovated, giving it the form of a early modern residence. It was destroyed during the Great Northern War in the early eighteenth century and during the Second World War.


   The oldest part of the castle was a perimeter wall and a moat, forming a large square courtyard. The length of its side exceeded 100 meters, which was a large area, probably used as a gathering or rest ground for the troops and a place of refuge of the surrounding population in the event of an emergency.
In the fourteenth century, next to wooden buildings, in the eastern corner, a four-wing upper castle was erected. Its architecture, despite the low rank of Oberpahlen, used the model of the teutonic conventual castle. Thus, the first floor probably had a chapel in the western corner, a refectory, a dormitory and a chapter house. Communication between them was provided by stone cloisters. The main point of defense of the upper ward was the tower in the west corner, having a massive structure, but without a flanking function, because it did not protrude from the face of the walls of the wings connected to it. Probably smaller towers also existed in the other corners. The remaining part of the castle courtyard served as a outer bailey, on which, over the years, internal buildings appeared adjacent to the walls.
In the fifteenth century, the walls were raised a few meters, new porches for defenders were created with adaptation to firearms and towers were strengthened. At the latest, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, a cylindrical cannon tower was erected, extending beyond the south – eastern line of the outer wall.

Current state

   Until today, from the castle has survived the entire length of the outer wall, still surrounded by the irrigated moat. In the courtyard of the ward you can see the not covered south – west wing and rebuilt north – west wing. The upper castle is now a burnt frame of a medieval building, transformed into a modern residence. It hides the remains of brick, gothic arches and blendes. Since 1997, the castle has a local museum dedicated to the history of Põltsamaa.

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Borowski T., Miasta, zamki i klasztory. Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.