Ergeme – Order Castle Ermes


   The Ermes castle was probably built around 1320 and appeared three years later in written sources. Served, like other such fortifications, mainly as a storage of food or weapons, a place of refuge of the surrounding population and as a convenient place for stopping marching troops. In military terms, it was a minor watchtower between the areas of the Teutonic Order and the authority of the Dorpat bishops. In the fifteenth century its importance probably increased, because the fortifications were rebuilt and adapted to the use of firearms. In 1560, the battle of the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order with the armies of Ivan the Terrible took place near the castle. After the defeat and the considerable losses, the Order lost its ability to defend its territory, it became secularized. The Duchy of Courland and Semigalle, formed in its place, together with the Ermes castle, gave themselves under the protection of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Polish domination over the stronghold lasted until the first half of the seventeenth century, when it lost its military significance and until the nineteenth century served as a granary.


   Ermes was a typical “wayside castle”, whose main element was a spacious, regular courtyard surrounded by a defensive wall and a moat. Along the perimeter walls were the crew rooms and economic facilities built up to walls inner face (the former can be associated with numerous small rooms, while utility rooms were probably located in large halls without internal divisions). In the 15th century, the castle was extended by adding round towers adapted to use firearms. One of them was built halfway along the west wall of the castle, the other one in the north-eastern corner. The west tower was an unusual building, having a cylindrical shape in its plan and also housing the gateway.

Current state

   Currently, Ergeme castle, located on the sidelines of the tourist routes, is in a state of quite well preserved ruin. It survived the majority of the defensive wall and two cylindrical towers. Unfortunately, the monument is neglected and urgently needs conservation care.

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Borowski T., Miasta, zamki i klasztory. Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Ose I., Neugebaute Türme der Burgen Lettlands, “Castella Maris Baltici” nr. 3-4, Turku-Tartu-Malbork, 2001.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.