Vastseliina – Bishop’s Castle Neuhausen


   Neuhausen castle was the easternmost stronghold of the Dorpat bishopric. Its task was to defend the eastern border and an important trade route to Pskov. It is possible that the impulse for its creation was the fortification in the thirties of the 14th century of the Rus fortress Izborsk. The construction of Neuhausen began around 1342 in agreement with the Livonian Order. Initially, the castle was called Frauenburg, only later it was referred to as Neuhausen.
In 1353, in the chapel located in the castle tower, a cross was seen levitating above the altar. Since then, the stronghold has also been the destination of numerous pilgrimages. The sanctity of the chapel was recognized in 1354 by pope Innocent IV himself, providing a forty day indulgence for every pilgrim who reaches the castle.
Despite the border location, the castle initially did not experience much war damages. The first serious attempt took place only in 1463, when the Russians unsuccessfully besieged Neuhausen. Under the impact of the growing threat from the east, at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the castle was extended, making it one of the most powerful in Livonia. However, it did not save the bishopric in 1558, even though the castle was strengthened by the Teutonic army sent in. After a three-week siege and repeated assaults, commander Jurgen von Uexküll gave the fortress to the armies of Ivan the Terrible. After the truce of Yam-Zapolsky in 1582, the control over the castle was taken over by the Polish-Lithuanian army, which 40 years later, after a heavy siege, was overthrown by the Swedes. Shortly afterwards, the Russians occupied Neuhausen, but then the medieval stronghold had little military significance and was in ruin at the latest from the beginning of the 18th century.


   Initially, the castle consisted of a huge, rectangular tower, to which in the third quarter of the fourteenth century a three-wing castle complex was built from the north-east, surrounding a regular, inner courtyard. At the end of the fifteenth century, the entire castle was surrounded by additional, external walls, reinforced with three towers, and the main castle was equipped with strong, corner cannon towers. The entrance gate was located on the south-west side. The residential and domestic buildings adjoined the inner side of the defensive walls.

Current state

   The castle is currently one of the better-preserved fortresses of the Dorpat bishopric. Fragments of walls and two huge corner towers with remarkable façade decoration survived. Entrance to the castle area is free.

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Borowski T, Miasta, zamki i klasztory, Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.