Riga – Order Castle


   Soon after the founding of the city in 1201, a stone bishop’s court was erected, and a court of the Order of Livonian Brothers of the Sword situated opposite it. After a dozen or so years, the bishop of Riga gave his residence to the Dominicans, and he moved to a new court located closer to the cathedral. In 1274, the German king Rudolf I Habsburg granted the Teutonic Order a privilege guaranteeing secular control over the city. This led to an exacerbation of the conflict between the archbishop and the order, which in 1297 took on a military character. The rebel townspeople conquered the order court and murdered its crew and, fearing the Teutonic reprisal, they formed a military alliance with pagan Lithuania. This did not help much, because in 1330, the Teutonic army besieged and captured Riga, and the defeated burghers were forced to accept the supremacy of the Order and pay for the construction of a new Teutonic conventual castle in the north-western part of the city. In the following years, this castle became the main seat of the land master of Livonia, while the old manor with the chapel of St. George was changed to a hospital and the church of Holy Spirit.
The conflict over control of the city smoldering further, among others, the trial at the papal court was conducted, in which the archbishops of Riga accused the Order of taking over the city. Finally, in 1366, the Livonian master renounced his rights over Riga, reserving only the right to own a castle. This situation changed in 1454, when the Teutonic Order came to an agreement with the archbishop of Riga, Sylwester, sharing power over the city with him. This treaty, called Salaspils, did not end the dispute. In 1484, the Riga townspeople made another attempt to regain political independence. They attacked and demolished the so-called the second order castle in Riga, which caused a war that lasted several years. As a result, after the battle of Ādaži in 1491, the Teutonic Order again defeated the rebellious city and forced the inhabitants to erect a new stronghold on the foundations of the destroyed castle. Riga, who was exhausted by the war, was reluctant to fulfill the terms of the peaace agreement, so that the new, third castle was built only around 1515.
The average size of the new castle suggests that from the very beginning it was not meant to be the headquarters of the highest authorities of the Order, but only a traditional convent. The land master of Livonia, Wolter von Plettenber resided in Wenden and probably gave up thoughts of full control over Riga. A new conciliatory attitude of the Order or fear of the fortifications of the stronghold prevented the Riga order castle from battles against townsmen during the riots of the 20s of the 16th century on the wave of the Reformation. It was closed only with the secularization of the entire branch of the Teutonic Order. In 1562, the last land master of Livonia, Gotthard Kettler, paid homage to the representative of the Polish king at the castle in Riga, and the city and the castle passed under Polish-Lithuanian rule.
The castle until 1621 was the residence of the governor of the king of Poland and was staffed by a Polish military crew. In 1582, king Stefan Batory resided in the castle. In 1621 Riga was occupied by Swedes for over a hundred years, and after them from 1710, the castle and the city were ruled by Russians, who in the castle organized administrative offices and the court of the Livonian Governorate. The fortress was thoroughly rebuilt and enlarged between the 17th and 19th centuries. Another renovation was carried out in the 1930s. In 1938, the Latvian government announced that the castle would be the seat of parliament from then on.


   The so-called third teutonic castle in Riga was a typical conventual stronghold, a four-winged complex on a square plan with a dansker on the east side, extended towards the river. The northern wing on the first floor housed the chamber of the commander and the dormitory. In the east wing there was a chapter house, the south wing consisted of a chapel in the eastern part, with a sacristy situated in the south-eastern corner tower and the refectory. The west wing housed rooms not associated with the order convent and the passage to the dansker. Access to all rooms was provided by an external stone cloister around the courtyard of the castle. In the corners of the stronghold were placed towers, of which two were quadrilateral, and two were massive, cylindrical buildings: north-west named Holy Spirit and south-east called Lead Tower. The outer zone of fortifications was created by an irrigated moat and a wall that ran around the entire castle and separated a small outer bailey.

Current state

   Survived to modern times so-called the third teutonic castle in Riga, retained its basic, original shape, but unfortunately it completely lost its original stylistic features. Two cylindrical corner towers stand out, currently plastered and with pierced modern windows. You can also see smaller corner quadrilateral towers. The castle serves as the presidential seat, but part of its interior, housing the Latvian National Museum of History, is open to tourists.

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