Tarvastu – Teutonic Castle Tarwast


   It is not known exactly when the castle was erected, but in 1329 there was already a fortifications on the hill, because this year Tarwast was besieged by the Lithuanian army of prince Gediminas. Starting from the fifteenth century, the castle was often chosen as the temporary residence of the Teutonic land masters of Livonia. Therefore, it was expanded and strengthened. In 1481 Tarvast was occupied by Ruthenian army, the castle’s crew was killed or kidnapped. The stronghold rose from destruction and was still a frequent purpose of the visits of order’s dignitaries. It was in Tarvast that in 1557 one of the last Livonian masters, Heinrich von Galen, died. A few years later, the Livonian War began, during which the castle’s owner changed several times and the stronghold did not avoid damages. After the victorious campaign of the Polish king Stefan Batory, in Tarvast the center of the eldership was created. Unfortunately, after several decades, next wars came. At the end of the 17th century, a powder exploded in the castle, which completely destroyed most of the walls and buildings.


   The layout of the castle from the 14th century was quite simple. It consisted of a single courtyard, surrounded by a defensive wall and a moat, of a regular shape, whose western edge was slightly distorted by the course of the castle hill. Probably all the wings of the courtyard had from the inside domestic and representative buildings, initially wooden, later bricked. The main gate was located in the length of the eastern wall. On the north side, there was a mill, protected by a quadrangular tower from the 15th century. It was a massive construction, 14 meters wide, and wall thickness around 1,7 meters. Its foundations reached the castle’s moat, perhaps it was a dansker. In the fifteenth century, the castle walls were also raised, and the interiors received new vaults.

Current state

   Until today, only small relics of castle walls and a fragment of a huge tower – dansker – have survived from the medieval stronghold. Entrance to the ruins area is free.

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