Rakvere – Castle Wesenberg


   Wesenberg castle was erected on the site of a wooden and earth hillfort of the pagan Ests, captured by the Danish crusaders in 1220. These areas captured by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword Order, incorporated later into the Teutonic Order, returned to the Kingdom of Denmark and it was under its rule that the first stone fortifications were erected. Stronghold played an important role during the war with Ruthenia, when in 1268 survive crusaders of nearby battle with the Pskov and Novgorod troops, found a shelter here. The victorious troops did not attempt to capture the castle and, after being content with the plunder of the area, returned to the east. In 1346, bankrupt Denmark, sold northern Estonia to the Teutonic Order. Wesenberg became a conventual castle and seat of the teutonic vogt and was strengthened and expanded.
In 1558, the army of Ivan the Terrible appeared under the walls of the castle. The defense did not last long, because the small and demoralized Teutonic Knights, commanded by Gerhard Huyn von Amstenraide, surrendered and left the stronghold. A dozen years later, it was captured by the Swedes, and then after the outbreak of the Polish-Swedish war in 1602, occupied by Polish-Lithuanian troops. Formally, Wesenberg was never incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as already in 1605, the Swedish counteroffensive recapture the fortress. During these fights, the castle suffered serious damages and eventually lost its military significance. In 1618, it was given to the Dutch ambassador Reinhold von Brederode, but neither he nor any of the subsequent private owners undertook reconstruction. The first conservation work began around 1901.


   The castle from the fourteenth century was a two-part complex with a four-wing upper ward and an outer ward from the south, both located on a hill extended on the north-south line.
   The most representative wing of the upper ward was the south range, the importance of which was emphasized by two later corner towers, both erected on a square plan. The most important chambers were probably on the first floor. This is evidenced by the heating system on the ground floor that provides warm for the first floor. Each of the four wings of the castle had such a system, most of the rooms were also vaulted, which makes it difficult to identify the most important rooms. The castle chapel was most likely located in the eastern wing, and the southern one could house the vogt’s private chambers, but these are only assumptions. The communication on the first floor was provided by an external, partly stone cloister. It is also worth paying attention to the narrowing towards the north of the thickness of the eastern wall and the width of the eastern rooms, thanks to which the architects wanted to give the courtyard a square shape, in accordance with the norms of the order’s rule.
   The most massive four-sided main tower was embedded in the western curtain of the upper ward wall, and the north-west corner was protected by an additional external wall. The main gate of the outer ward, which was at the junction with the walls of the upper ward, was guarded by a squat semicircular tower, probably the latest addition to the castle’s defense system. Interestingly, the upper castle had a second entrance gate on the north side, independent of the southern connection with the outer ward.

Current state

   The castle is preserved today in the form of an impressive ruin. It is managed by the castle museum, which organizes numerous attractions, cultural and outdoor events, as well as exhibitions and historical stagings. An exhibition of archaeological findings from the castle grounds has been functioning in Rakvere since 1988.

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Borowski T, Miasta, zamki i klasztory, Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.
Zamki regionu Morza Bałtyckiego, red. T.Kjaergaard, Bydgoszcz 1995.