Ikšķile (Uexküll) – St Meinhard’s Church


   The church in Uexküll was founded on the initiative of Saint Meinhard, a Augustinian canon of Segeberg, who at least from 1182 was involved in spreading Christianity in Livonia. Thanks to the help of merchants from Gotland, which he often accompanied as a missionary during trade expeditions, and with the permission of the duke of Połock, around 1185 he managed to build a stone church in Uexküll for the converts Livs. In 1188, Meinhard received the title of bishop from the Pope, which raised the temple to the rank of the cathedral and probably resulted in its rebuilding from the existing chapel to a larger building with defensive functions. Meinhard was also able to win Lithuanian princes Anno and Kaupo, and get support from other clergymen, including Theodoric von Treiden, the founder of the monastery in the city of Daugavgrīva.
Meinhard died in 1196, and his successor was Cistercian Bertold Schulte. He encountered resistance from the Livs who drove him out of Livonia. Then he began to preach in North Germany the need for an armed expedition against the pagans, which, supported by the papacy, led in 1198 to the first crusade to the Daugava river area, during which Bertold died. Another bishop of Uexküll, Albert von Bekeshovede, in 1200 led another expedition, and one of its effects was to establish a year later town Riga, which located on the seashore, better suited as the base for conquests. The seat of the bishopric was also moved there, and Uexküll lost its previous spiritual and administrative significance.
In subsequent years, the church of Saint Meinhard acted as a parish church, while Uexküll was one of the goods granted by the bishops to their lay vassals. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, it was attacked several times by pagan and Russian troops from Polotsk, but it went without major damages. Since 1257, the owners of Uexküll have included the name of this settlement to their family name, giving rise to the important family von Uexküll. However, it did not involve any major rebuildings or extensions.
The medieval building suffered during the 17th century wars between Poland, Sweden and Russia. In subsequent centuries, it was restored, for the last time a major reconstruction was made at the end of the nineteenth century. Eventually, the church was destroyed during the First World War.


   The castle in Uexküll was erected on the high bank of the Daugava, which provided protection from the south, while a ditch was created on the other sides. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, it consisted of a church, to the south of which a walled courtyard was added, in the eastern part of which a small stone residential building was erected, perhaps of a tower character, built on a square plan with a sides of about 8 meters. Most likely it was the original seat of the bishops. On its eastern side, another courtyard surrounded by a defensive wall was established, probably serving as a shelter for local neophytes. The church was a small building with a central pillar in the nave and a chancel originally ended with a four-sided apse.

Current state

   Until today, only small ruins of the church remain from the monument, unfortunately covered with an ugly roof that can be seen from a distance. Currently, the church is located on a hard-to-reach small island, created as a result of the construction of a dam and raising up water in the 1970s.

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