Ludza – Order Castle Ludsen


   Ludsen castle was, next to the Narva, the easternmost stronghold of Livonia, located closer to the Ruthenian cities, such as Polotsk and Pskov, than any of the major cities of Livonia: Riga or Dorpat. The first mention of Ludza comes from 1177, but refers to the local hillfort. The brick Teutonic castle was built only at the end of the 14th century or at the beginning of the 15th century, but it cannot be ruled out that some wooden fortifications had been built earlier, because the order took over the surrounding lands already in 1264. In written sources, the first information about Ludsen appeared only in 1433, when VogI von Rositen informed the marshal of Livonia that the commander continued his journey from Mewe (Gniew) through Ludsen, Rositen and Marienburg.
At the end of the 15th century, the castle was occupied and seriously damaged the Muscovite army.
The destruction must have been extensive, since the stronghold was fully restored only in 1525. The fall of the medieval castle came with the invasion of Ivan the Terrible troops in the second half of the 16th century. In the face of aggression in 1558, the Teutonic Knights gave their Latgalian strongholds, including Ludsen, in pledged to Lithuania. From the moment of the union of Lublin in 1569 they became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Ludsen initially kept the military significance until it was taken over and destroyed by the Russian army in 1654. In the following years, not renovated, fell into total ruin.


   The castle was built on top of a high hill, on an isthmus between two lakes. So nature provided good protection from the east and west, and also from the north, where the watercourse connected both lakes. Only in the south the plateau had to be cut off by a ditch, probably filled with water from the surrounding lakes.
   The main and probably the oldest brick element of the castle was a large, square main tower with a brick, gothic decoration in the form of white plastered ogival blendes and patterns made of zendrówka bricks. Its four storeys, with residential interiors, were separated by wooden ceilings, except for the lowest basement storey covered with a rib vault. Also, the upper floor was originally covered with a vault, which was probably replaced with a ceiling in the 16th century. It served a residential function as it was heated by a fireplace. Two curtains of the wall adjoined the tower, separating, together with the other three curtains from the south-east, an irregular, small courtyard. Its eastern part was occupied by buildings, probably having three floors, perhaps the second wing was also located at the western wall.
   The core of the Ludsen castle from the south and south-east was adjacent to two outer baileys, separated by a ditch about 8 meters deep. While the second outer ward was probably fortified only with wood and earth fortifications, the first outer ward was surrounded by a perimeter of an irregular stone and brick defensive wall. Its thickness was not too great, it varied between 1.3 and 1.5 meters, so the sidewalk for defenders was widened with a wooden porch with beams embedded in the openings in the wall. The defenders were protected by a battlement. The wooden and earth fortifications of the second outer ward were to be strengthened by about six towers, some of them could also be made of wooden construction, like most of the economic buildings in the outer ward.

Current state

   Remains of the castle fortunately avoided the demolition for the building materials, thanks to which two walls of the main tower, part of the eastern buildings and fragments of the defensive walls have survived to this day. Entrance to the ruins is free.

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Borowski T., Miasta, zamki i klasztory. Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Ose I., Ludsen – im 14. Jh. gebaute Grenzburg des Deutschen Ordens in Livland [w:] Zwischen Kreuz und Zinne: Festschrift für Barbara Schock-Werner zum 65. Geburtstag, Braubach 2012.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.