Alūksne – Order Castle Marienburg


   The Marienburg castle was built in the first half of the 14th century, probably around 1342, when the Teutonic Order together with the bishopric of Dorpat tried to secure the eastern border of Livonia. It was one of the most eastern order strongholds and the center of the border commandry. The dignity of the first commander of the castle was awarded to Arnold von Vietinghoff, later the landmaster of Livonia. The local commanders also belonged to the informal council of order dignitaries, which was the advisory group of the Livonian masters.
At the end of the fourteenth century, the castle was burned by the Lithuanian army of Vytautas. The destructions, however, could not be large, because the stronghold retained its military significance. In addition, it was modernized in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which is why it was considered as one of the most powerful watchtowers of the eastern border. Despite this, in 1560 the castle was occupied without a fight by the army of Ivan the Terrible. After his defeat, for over 60 years, the stronghold was taken by the Poles, and then from 1629 by the Swedes. It was not destroyed, but even obtained additional earth bastion fortifications. The end of Marienburg came in 1702, when the defending Swedish garrison, not wanting to take over the castle by the Russians, decided to blow up most of the buildings. Among the inhabitants of the castle’s settlement that were taken into captivity at the time, was among others Marta Skowrońska, future wife of tsar Peter I, and then as Catherine I, empress of Russia. However, the destroyed castle lost its significance and turned into a ruin, in addition dismantled to the building materials.


   The castle was erected on an island located on the lake, near the previously captured pagan hillfort. It consisted of the upper castle – the convent’s seat with four-wing buildings with all the rooms required by the monastic rule. On the first floor in the north wing there was a chapel, and probably in the south-west corner there was a defensive tower. On the first floor, there had to be all other rooms required by the order’s rule, such as a dormitory or a refectory, while traditionally, the ground floor probably housed utility rooms: pantries, kitchen, bakery or brewery. The top storey of the attic probably, like in other order castles, served as a granary and had defensive purposes. The upper castle was built of stones and bricks, external fortifications mainly of erratic stones.
Castle had also two outer baileys with at least five towers. In the later period there were even 8-10 of them. Older fourteenth-century towers were probably on the square plan; newer, 15th/16th century were cylindrical and adapted to use firearms. In the area of the northern ward was the main gatehouse from which road was led to the wooden drawbridge. On the other side, there was a castle’s craft and trade settlement.

Current state

   Only fragments of towers, walls and buildings scattered on the island have survived to this day from the once-large stronghold. Open-air events take place among them, and a recreational park also functions.

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