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 complex, adapted to the shape of the terrain, built mainly of stone. The upper ward was located on a hill between two streams flowing into the Daugava River. Between the river and the castle there was a vast economic outer bailey, within which there probably also functioned a amall harbour. A large part of it was on a slope to the west. The main entrance led from the east through a drawbridge over the ditch. Behind it, there was a trade and merchant settlement near the castle.
   The oldest element of the stronghold, dating back to the 13th century, was the eastern wing of the upper ward. In it, above the entrance gate, there was a chapel, a solution often found in Teutonic castles. The remaining wings, from the fourteenth century, in addition to utility rooms, housed the rest of the order chambers required by the rule, such as the refectory or dormitory.
   The castle probably also had three towers: one cylindrical from the south-east, which flanked the entrance gate, the second, four-sided one from the south-west, towering on the west ward and the harbour, and the third one, also four-sided in plan from the north. It was therefore quite limited complex  for a conventual castle due to the terrain conditions.

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.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

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