Turaida – Bishop’s Castle Treiden


   The construction of the Treiden castle began very early because in 1214. Initially it was called Friedland (Country of Peace), but later the name was changed to Turaida (God’s Garden). Probably from the very beginning it was one of the main centers of the episcopal territorial authority, to which the western part of the dominion of the Archbishopric of Riga was subject to administrative control (the eastern part was subordinated to the Kokenhausen stronghold). The first castle vogt, Alebrand, managing these properties, appeared in sources as early as in 1207.
Due to its high rank, the castle was extended many times until the 16th century. The reason for strengthening the fortifications could also be the proximity of the order castle Segewold. This proximity meant that Treiden was repeatedly occupied by the Teutonic Order. It first took place in 1298, then in 1405, once again in 1479 and finally in 1556. In total, the Teutonic Knights took over castle for almost 80 years.
After the fall of the Archbishopric of Riga and the annexation of Livonia to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the starosty functioned in the castle. The stronghold was also a participant in the Polish-Swedish wars, as a result of which the castle eventually came under Swedish rule in the first half of the 17th century. Despite the repairs carried out at that time, the stronghold was slowly losing its military significance and perhaps thanks to this it avoided total destruction during the Great Northern War. For most of the eighteenth century, the castle was inhabited, unfortunately in 1776 it was consumed by a fire. Losses and damages were so serious that reconstruction was not undertaken. The castle remaining in ruin was subjected to archaeological research and partial reconstruction only in the 20th century.


   The irregular shape of the castle was adapted to the form of the hill on which it was erected. As one of the few in Livonia, it was built of brick. In the first phase, a defensive wall was built, closing an irregular courtyard, in the western part of which, a building with a residential or sacral function was situated, it could have been originally a chapel. At the same time or a little later, the construction of a huge main tower in the northern part of the courtyard began. The other two wings, northern and eastern, have also been fully developed, but the exact period of their completion is unknown (it probably happened in the 14th century). Finally, a row of buildings 17 and 25.5 meters long was added to face of the walls from the courtyard side. Also at the beginning of the 14th century, a square tower was erected in the southern part of the courtyard, in front of which a small ward was separated.
   The main tower was less than 40 meters high, with an outer diameter of 13.4 meters (internal 6.8 meters), walls 2.9 – 3.3 meters thick, inside which it was originally divided into seven storeys, of which only one was topped with a vault, and the others were separated by flat, wooden ceilings. Initially, the tower was entered through a highly pierced portal (on the second floor), in front of which there was a platform supported on two stone corbels, to which a ladder or external, easily removable in case of danger stairs were attached. The door on the lower floor was opened later when the tower’s defensive function has become less important. Characteristically, the lowest floor of the tower was not a prison dungeon, and most of the levels were probably intended for storage in the event of a prolonged siege. Despite being equipped with a fireplace and a larger semicircular window on one of the floors, it also did not serve as a permanent residence, serving a guard, warning and defense function in the event of an attack.
Subsequent changes in the architecture of the building were introduced in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. From this period comes a semi-cylindrical western tower with a wooden defensive porch that runs around it, and a slightly smaller round tower, placed in the north-west corner, near the main tower. An additional small tower was also given to the southern ward. The defensive system was complemented by characteristic, elongated northern bailey ending with two cylindrical towers. During this period, defensive walls were also strengthened and raised.

Current state

   Today, the Treiden castle is one of the most known and visited medieval strongholds in Latvia, the more so because it is located in the heart of the largest Latvian national park. Currently, you can see the cylindrical main tower and the reconstructed two towers of the upper castle with a fragment of the defensive wall and partially preserved tower on the former northern bailey. There is also one building of the upper ward (at the western curtain) with a small museum.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

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.
Zamki regionu Morza Bałtyckiego, red. T.Kjaergaard, Bydgoszcz 1995.