Dobele – Order Castle Doblen


   The first information about Doblen dates back to 1254, when it was granted to the Teutonic Knights by virtue of a settlement dividing the areas of southern Latvia between the order and individual bishoprics. At that time, it were still wooden – earth fortifications erected by pagan Balts, probably still outside the real power of the Order, because between 1279 and 1289 fierce battles were fought here, during which the crusaders unsuccessfully besieged Doblen. It was only at the beginning of the last decade of the thirteenth century that the pagan crew left the hillfort and went to Lithuania.
The exact date of construction of the brick castle is unknown, however, the basic works were completed no later than in 1376, when the first commander  of Doblen, Dietrich Holtey, appeared in the sources. The commandry functioned without interruption until 1562, although in the fifteenth century it did not have the required by rule number of 12 order brothers. After the secularization of the Livonian branch of the Order, a dispute arose between the last commander, Mathias von der Recke, and Gotthard Kettler, as a result of which the castle became the property of the latter after a few years. Then Doblen became part of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. Even at the beginning of the 17th century, the castle was extended, and the castle’s settlement was developing. To the fall of the city and the stronghold led only the Polish-Swedish wars, during which in 1625, 1658 and 1701 Doblen was occupied by the Swedes, and after the last invasion, the population was decimated by the plague. From the middle of the eighteenth century, the castle remained in ruin.


   The castle was built on a hill on the high west bank of the Bērze River. It was protected by high escarpments on three sides, only from the south it was necessary to make a transverse ditch. It had an irregular, walled courtyard, untypical for Teutonic strongholds, probably due to the shape of the hill and the earlier wood and earth fortifications. Over a length of 180 meters, it narrowed to the north from 94 to 18.5 meters, where on the very promontory, in the corner, the upper ward was located.
   The main, representative rooms of the upper ward (32 x 18.5 x 37 meters) were in the south wing (33.6 x 11 meters), the massive structure of which protected the small courtyard of the convent’s seat. The southern range had walls up to 2 meters thick and protruded about 6 meters beyond the line of the upper ward walls in the east. There were basements in it, probably for storage purposes, as well as the ground floor and the first floor divided into two rooms on each floor: larger three-bay with dimensions of 22×7 meters and smaller two-bay ones with 4×9 meters. On the ground floor, in a larger room, a chapel was located, covered with an unpreserved gothic stellar vault. In addition, there was a refectory and a dormitory in the upper ward, required by the order’s rule. An interesting element was the relatively rare in this region, and more frequent in Prussia, small turrets, embedded in the corners of the southern wing.
   The outer bailey located south of the upper ward with a row of buildings at the eastern curtain, served economic functions. The entrance to its area was near the south-west corner and on the west side, near the bent of the defensive wall, filled with a four-sided tower from the courtyard side.

Current state

   Currently, ruins of Dobele castle are one of the most important medieval monuments of south-eastern Latvia. To date have survived: the ruined, main, southern range of the upper castle, the defensive walls on almost the entire length  and partly the eastern building of the outer bailey, unfortunately without internal divisions. Apparently, it is planned to rebuild the vault of the castle’s chapel.

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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.