Vilaka – Bishop’s Castle Marienhausen


   Initially, the island on which the castle was later erected was donated by the archbishop of Riga, John II von Vechta, to the Cistercian monks in order to build a monastery here. It was given the name Marienhausen that is “the house of Mary”. It was then a place very far east from other crusader centers, surrounded by swamps, far from the main communication routes, inaccessible.
In the second half of the fifteenth century, after the fall of the Republic of Novgorod and with the increased threat from Moscow, the monastery declined and was abandoned. At the same time, the military significance of its position increased, therefore under the rule of archbishop Michael Hildebrand, the construction of additional fortifications begun, and at the latest in the second decade of the sixteenth century, Marienhusen was eventually rebuilt into the castle of the Archbishopric of Riga. In 1559, it was given to the Lithuanian crew, who a year later defended it against the Muscovite forces. The victory was so significant that the Lithuanians defending themselves under the command of Jan and Aleksander Połubiński, during the armed raid, managed to break up the Russian forces and then take Izborsk from the march. This success could not be repeated in 1577, when the troops of Ivan the Terrible occupied Marienhausen and partially destroyed its fortifications. Under the truce of Yam-Zapolsky, the castle returned under Polish-Lithuanian rule, under which remained until the First Partition of Poland in 1772. During this period the starosty functioned here, and the stronghold was restored. The end of the castle was brought about by the Great Northern War at the beginning of the 18th century, during which it suffered such destructions that its reconstruction was not undertaken.


   The first buildings on the island erected by the Cistercians were wooden, it is possible that only the square main tower was made of stone. The castle from the 15th / 16th centuries had an irregular shape centered around a single courtyard, located south-west of the oldest tower and surrounded by a defensive wall equipped with three cylindrical towers, adapted to the fire-arms. In the northern part of the courtyard there was the only residential building, in front of which the main castle gate was placed in the length of the southern wall. Although the castle was erected on the island, a moat was also dug from the east side.

Current state

   The castle has not survived to modern times due to the dismantling of it after war damages, for use on the building materials. Only small relics of stone walls are visible.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

Borowski T., Miasta, zamki i klasztory. Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.