The first commander of Segewold, Gerfried Wrideke, appeared in historical sources in 1231. Therefore, the castle was one of the oldest crusader strongholds, built before the incorporation of the Order of Livonian Brothers of the Sword into the Teutonic Order in 1237. Gerfried Wrideke was also one of the few who did not died during the battle of Saule, and already as a member of the Teutonic Order regained the title of the Segewold commander. In subsequent years, the castle was chosen as the seat of the land marshal of Livonia, who was responsible for the military issues of the Livonian branch of the Order, supervising the condition of fortifications, equipping the army and the order stables. Due to the increase in significance, the castle was extended, giving it a conventual features.
The end of the splendor of the castle came along with the Livonian War and the invasion of the troops of Ivan the Terrible in the second half of the sixteenth century, when Segewold was burned twice. In subsequent years under Polish-Lithuanian rule, the castle suffered during numerous wars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with Sweden and finally lost its military significance.
The first Segewold fortifications from the second quarter of the 13th century were limited to a single, stone defensive wall with a four-sided, regular plan and internal wooden buildings. Then a rectangular building of 3-meter-thick walls was erected. It had a large basement measuring 10 x 9.5 meters with a column in the middle, supporting the vault.
As a result of the next stage from the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century, three wings at the inner courtyard were created, measuring a total of approximately 40 x 45 meters, of which the north and west contained the most important and required by order rule rooms. The communication between them was provided by an external cloister in the courtyard. The chapel of the castle was placed on the first floor of the west wing, so that its altar was orientated to the south and not to the east, and the south wall, devoid of straight angles, located on the side of the main entrance to the castle, was a representative Segewold side, emphasized by a large gothic window and unique cross, carved in the thickness of the wall.
The shape of the terrain definitely influenced the castle plan, which is why the upper castle had only two, not four wings of internal buildings. The main courtyard was located too close to the south-eastern slope of the hill, so that heavy castle buildings could not be erected there. The southern wing probably had only light wooden buildings of an economic nature. This weak point of defense was strengthened by a single tower and an external defensive wall creating zwinger from the south and east.
From the west and partially to the north, the upper ward was protected by an outer bailey measuring approximately 110 x 80 meters, the shape of which was also dictated by the area of the castle hill. The outer bailey had at least three towers, of which the mighty south gate tower stood out. In plan, it was a square measuring 10.5 x 10 meters, it had a portal 3.2 meters wide and a gateway 7 meters wide. The last element of the fortifications was the extensive southern ward (160 x 150 meters) with an unknown layout. It is only known that it was separated by a ditch and had at least one tower.
Currently, the castle is one of the better-preserved order strongholds in Latvia. It have survived, among others a powerful gate leading to the ward and partially the west wing of the upper castle with the southern facade of the castle’s chapel. Unfortunately, in recent times, the defensive wall between these two elements has been rebuilt with a strange, ahistoric design that completely destroys the appearance of the ruins. It is only to be glad that it was made of wood, not glass and concrete, as it happens on the occasion of other monuments, for example in Poland or Spain, and hope that it will be dismantled sometime.
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.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.