Daugavpils – Order Castle Dünaburg


   The Teutonic castle in Daugavpils (Dünaburg) was the southernmost commandry in Livonia. It played the role of the most important political, military and commercial center of Latgale, where the Teutonic Order was threatened by both Lithuanian invasions from the south and Ruthenia from the east. The stronghold was built around 1275, probably on the initiative of the Livonian landmaster, Ernst von Ratzeburg. It had favorable development conditions because it was at the intersection of two great trade routes connecting Lithuania with Ruthenia and through the river Daugava, Riga with Smolensk, Vitebsk and Polotsk.
The first test of the fortifications of the castle came already in 1277, when Dünaburg was besieged by the Lithuanian prince Traidenis. The over three weeks siege turned out to be ineffective and the troops retreated to Lithuania. It was not until the early fourteenth century that the Lithuanian prince Vytenis capture the castle and partially destroyed its fortifications. In the following years, subsequent Livonian masters, especially Gerhard von Jork and Goswin von Herreke, rebuilt and modernized the stronghold. As early as in 1396, it was partially burned, and after reconstruction it was twice conquered and destroyed: in 1403 and 1418. After another reconstruction, the castle remained unscathed for 60 years, until the invasion of Ivan the Terrible troops during the Livonian War. Recovered soon by the Order, it remained in his hands until 1559, when it was joined to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1577, during one of the last attacks of the Muscovite troops, the castle defended by a Polish-Lithuanian crew, after more than two weeks of siege, was finally conquered and then demolished. This time, the scale of destruction was so large that king Stefan Batory decided to move Dünaburg 19 km to the west, where a new city, the modern Daugavpils, was created.


   The castle was an irregular stronghold, adapted to the terrain, mainly made of stone. The upper castle was situated on a hill between two streams flowing into the Daugava river. Between the river and the castle there was a vast economic ward, under which a harbor probably also functioned. The main entrance led from the east through a drawbridge, passed over a dug-out moat. Behind it was a craft-trade merchant settlement.
The oldest element of the stronghold, dating back to the 13th century, was the east wing of the upper castle. In it, above the entrance gate, there was a chapel. It was a solution often found in Teutonic castles. The remaining wings from the 14th century, apart from the economic rooms, housed the rest of the order chambers required by the order rule, such as the refectory or dormitory. The upper castle also had three towers: one from the south-east, the second from the south-west and the third from the north. Therefore, the castle complex was quite limited due to the terrain conditions, as for the conventual castle.

Current state

   The foundations of the castle visible to the nineteenth century, now are mostly hidden by the earth. Admission to the castle hill is free, on the spot you can see the model of the medieval fortress Dünaburg.

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