Bauska – Order Castle


   The lands of Semigallia on which the castle was erected constituted the border region between pagan Lithuania and order Livonia. Despite further attempts of conquest undertaken from the first half of the 13th century, for the next 200 years, this area was a region of Lithuanian-Teutonic struggles, that led to the depopulation of a significant strip of land. Only in the fifteenth century after the Christianization of Lithuania and the intensification of trade contacts, on the initiative of the Livonian master Vincke von Overberg, the Teutonic Order wanting to strengthen its control, erected the castle in Bauska. The first mention of it comes from 1443, but it was probably completed only in 1451. It was not intended for the seat of the convent, but only for the teutonic vogt, subordinate to the commander of Ascheraden.
During the Teutonic rule, the castle successfully escaped war damages, mainly due to its distance from the most dangerous eastern border. In the thirties of the sixteenth century, Burkard Waldis, a former Franciscan and a staunch promoter of the Reformation, was imprisoned there. After the fall of the Order and secularization, Bauska belonged to the Polish Crown, and then in 1561-1562 the seat of the last archbishop of Riga, William, was here. After 1562, the castle became the main residence of the newly created Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. At that time, the outer bailey was also rebuilt, putting a Renaissance prince’s palace in it.
In the 17th century, the stronghold became a frequent witness of Polish-Swedish fights. In 1625, after fierce battles, it was assaulted by the Swedish army, which occupied it until 1628, when was defeated by the Polish-Lithuanian army. Once again it was captured by the Swedes in 1658 and 1701, when the king of Sweden, Carl XII, temporarily stayed in it. At that time, at his order, the fortifications of the castle were strengthened with earth ramparts for the last time. This investment did not save Bauska from the Russian army, which in 1704 took the castle, and then, at the order of Peter the Great, it blown up a significant part of it. Although the Russians withdrew a few years later, the castle was never rebuilt and for the next 200 years, the remaining fragments served as a granary, prison, hospital and unfortunately as a source of building materials.


   The castle in Bauska was erected on a hill on a high promontory at the confluence of two rivers, the slopes of which fell steeply towards the shores in the north and south. The terrain conditions especially protected the northern side of the castle, which was reflected in the thickness of the wall in that part, clearly thinner than in the other directions.
   The castle had the shape of an irregular quadrilateral measuring approximately 56 x 31 meters, extending to the west with two wings of buildings: north and east. The defense was provided by two horseshoe towers on the most endangered eastern side, the southern four-sided tower protruding from the face of the wall, and a similar four-sided tower in the north-west corner. The massive horseshoe tower on the south-east side, together with the slightly smaller north-east one, defended the main castle gate located between them, which led to the eastern outer ward. These, in turn, were protected by two artillery towers located in the eastern corners. The role of the external fortifications was played by the moat dug through the headland.
   The horseshoe tower had a diameter of about 16 meters and very thick walls 3.6 meters wide. Its interior is divided into five storeys, with the basement and ground floor topped with a barrel vault, and on the first floor a representative chamber measuring 9 x 9.4 meters, covered with a stellar vault. It was connected to the east wing and communicated with other floors by means of stairs hidden in the wall thickness. It was also equipped with a fireplace and a latrine on the south side.
   Inside the castle buildings, situated in the courtyard at the northern and eastern curtain walls, there were rooms for the Teutonic vogt, garrison and economic facilities. Their floors were separated by flat wooden ceilings. The castle certainly also had a chapel, probably located in the north-west, four-sided, corner tower.

Current state

   The castle in Bauska is one of the better preserved in the area of historic Semigallia. In the best condition there is the former eastern part of the castle with a Renaissance palace and two cannon towers. From the upper castle the most interesting and best preserved element is the main castle tower. After a number of conservation works, in 1990 a museum was established in the castle, which continues research and renovation works and makes the monument available for sightseeing. There are also numerous cultural events, concerts and celebrations organized.

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Alttoa K., Bergholde-Wolf A., Dirveiks I., Grosmane E., Herrmann C., Kadakas V., Ose J., Randla A., Mittelalterlichen Baukunst in Livland (Estland und Lettland). Die Architektur einer historischen Grenzregion im Nordosten Europas, Berlin 2017.

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.