The Ronneburg castle was one of the most magnificent strongholds of the Archbishopric of Riga. The first mention of it comes from 1381, but its construction had to start much earlier, probably in the third quarter of the thirteenth century. Most often, the year 1262 is accepted, mentioned in early modern sources. Like other bishop’s castles, Ronneburg has been occupied several times by the Teutonic Order army, but this has not led to major damages to the building. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century fortifications of the castle were expanded and adapted to use firearms. The most serious works were carried out under the rule of archbishop Jasper Linde at the beginning of the sixteenth century. However, it did not protect the stronghold from subsequent damages. In 1556, the Teutonic army and then the Moscow troops occupied Ronneburg. After their expulsion, the castle became a part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the 17th century it was the subject of battles between Poland, Sweden and Russia, which led to the most severe ravages in 1657-1658. In 1683, the Swedish authorities removed Ronneburg from the list of fortifications and ordered to dismantle most of its fortifications.
The castle from the fourteenth century had a single courtyard with a rectangular shape, with three wings of buildings. The whole was about 47.4 meters long and 35.5 meters wide. The undeveloped north side was protected only by a single wall, in the western part of which was a gate. Next to it, in the north-west corner of the castle, a huge four-sided tower was erected, which was the most important element of the defense system. The representative rooms were located on the first floor, in the south wing were two refectars, in the west wing guest rooms or private rooms of the bishop, while the east wing housed a large audience hall and a chapel in the northern part. The communication was provided by an external cloister, originally wooden, then made of stone. The element distinguishing the upper castle from other episcopal and teutonic strongholds was the partial use of wood at the elevation of the upper storeys of the castle and a one-sided roof descending inwards, instead of the traditional gable form.
From the north-east side of the upper ward there was an outer bailey, initially not fortified, then surrounded by a wall, to the inner faces of which longitudinal domestic buildings were added. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, along with the entire castle, it was fortified with a new ring of outer walls, equipped with at least five semicircular towers, three of which were located from the south, and one from the west and north-east. The new fortifications separated the zwinger area, except for the north-west part of the castle, where there was not enough space due to the slopes of the hill. It protected both the upper and the outer ward, and there were farm economic as well as guard and service buildings on its area. An additional element of defense was a free-standing cylindrical tower located from the south-west and fish ponds serving as a moat, protecting the castle from the south and east. An unconventional solution was the main entrance to the castle, partly underground, along the length of the outer eastern wall.
Because the demolition works from the 17th century covered mainly defensive elements, large fragments of the representative part of the upper castle have survived. There is also a lower part of the main, four-sided tower, maintained approximately to the level of the third floor. Only small, stone relics preserved of the outer bailey and external fortifications.
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.
Turnbull S., Crusader Castles Of The Teutonic Knights. The Stone Castles Of Latvia And Estonia 1185-1560, Oxford 2004.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.