The Fellin castle was one of the oldest and most important strongholds of the Order of Livonian Brothers of the Sword, and in the city which developed at its foot, one of the most important trade routes and communication routes of Livonia crossed. The earliest information about Viljandi refers to the year 1211, when the hillfort of the Ests was besieged by the crusaders. Resistance had to be fierce, because there was a agreement, under which the stronghold retained some independence, but on condition of admission of Christian missionaries. In 1217, the Livonian Brothers brought to Fellin the first German merchants, which in the eyes of the Ests was a breach of the earlier compromise. In 1223, an uprising broke out, during which all the local Germans were murdered. Immediately after breaking the resistance of the local population, around 1224 on the order of the master of Livonian Brothers, Volkwin von Naumburg, the construction of a stone castle was begun, which was then raised to the rank of commandry. Its first known commander was a order’s knight Rikolf. Fellin’s commanders, along with the commanders of Rewel, Goldingen, Paide and Marienburg, were part of the informal council of the highest dignitaries of the Livonian Order. The castle was one of six castles erected by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword before its incorporation in 1237 into the Teutonic Order. It was also one of the largest convents, as the number of its members in 1347 reached 36 brothers of knights, in 1451 there were 29 of them, and in 1554 – 12, never below the required by rule of 12.
The invasion of Ivan the Terrible was a blow to the castle and the city. After a long siege was captured, first the city in 1560, and later the castle, which badly paid mercenary crew, refused to defend. In 1582, the town and castle buildings, ruined after the war, were occupied by Poles who in the following years lost them to Sweden. In 1602, another siege took place, during which the Polish troops recaptured Fellin, later losing it again after 20 years. None of the conquerors attempted to rebuild the stronghold, which lost its military significance and fell into total ruin.
The oldest part of the castle was a huge main tower called “High Hermann”, to which the convent’s seat was added from the south-east. It was a four-wing complex in which ground floor rooms had an economic function, while the first floor housed the most important monastery rooms, connected with each other by an external, stone cloister. The chapel and chapter house were in the north wing, the dormitory in the east, the chamber of the commander in the west, and the refectory in the south wing, connected to the dansker tower. In addition, the upper castle on all sides was surrounded by an external wall with towers, creating a spacious zwinger on which there were buildings of various Teutonic and conventual priests, as well as outbuildings, for example stables.
The upper castle from the north was guarded by two fortified, partially built-up baileys, separated by a moat, drawbridges and gate towers. The most powerful of them was the north-west gate on the lower castle, equipped with a gate’s neck with two bartyzans. Fortifications of the ward (lower castle) were connected to the city walls.
Today, there is little to see from the once-powerful castle. There is one of the walls of the upper castle, the remains of the castle gate, the lower part of the dansker tower and a fragment of the middle castle wall. The rest are foundations and few small relics. The castle’s moats separating the upper, middle and lower castle are visible. The castle ruins are now a frequent place for outdoor events.
Borowski T, Miasta, zamki i klasztory, Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.