History of the castle | Turaida Museum Reserve
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Turaida
Museum Reserve

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History of the castle


Work on the Turaida Stone Castle began in 1214 under the direction of Albert, Bishop of Riga. From the 13th century until the latter half of the 16th century, Turaida was Rīga Archbishop`s castle of economic significance, the centre of Archbishopric`s Liv district, a residence of district`s governor and military fortification.

Rīga Archbishops often used the Turaida Castle as a residence outside Riga and a shelter whereof testify documents issued since the 13th century in Turaida. The bailiff of Archbishopric  or the chief judge was residing regulary in the castle. About significance of the Turaida among other castles testifies a bull, issued by Pope Alexander IV on March 31, 1255 by which the Pope affirmed Rīga Archboshop`s estates  –  including castles, the Turaida (Thoreda) was mentioned as the first one.

At the end of the 13th century, a dispute arouse between Rīga city and Livonian Order, which turned into armed conflict. The ally of the Rīga residents became Archbishop Johann III from Schwerin. During the war, in March 1298, the forces of the Livonian Order besieged the Turaida castle where resided Archbishop of Riga. After the battle, which lasted 8 days, and during which the brothers of Order used ballistas and other siege weapons, the Rīga Archbishop surrendered and opened the gate of the Turaida castle. After the battle he had to transfer all his estates to the Order, including Turaida castle. Though the brothers of the Order kept him as a prisoner for 33 days in Sigulda and Viljandi castles, few days giving him only bread and water.

In the 14th century, the Archbishop of Rīga resided mostly in Rome, but the Dome council worked on his behalf. Periodically the archbishop`s estate and property, including Turaida, were governed by Livonian Order. In 1418, the newly appointed archbishop Johann VI Ambundi arrived in Archbishopric. Though the conflicts between Livonian Order, Archbishop and Rīga city continued. In 1478, the relations with the Order became so strained that archbishop Sylvester Stodevesher requested support from Swedish State governor Sten Sture. The Livonian Order had occupied again some Archbishopric`s districts. The planned alliance with Swedish side was not established because the forces of the Livonian Order had occupied 24 archbishop`s castles, including Turaida, but archbishop was captured and imprisoned. The mutual battles lasted several years. Only in 1485, the archbishop Michael Hildebrandt regained the Turaida castle and on January 6, 1486 there were held negotiations among Archbishop, the Livonian Order, Rīga city and Dome Councillors with participation of Swedish envoys to reach a mutual settlement of the dispute. Though the battles continued. The Order suffered a heavy defeat at Turaida in 1490, when 6 commanders of the Order were killed and 6 were captured. Since then Turaida remained in the possession of archbishops.

In the 16th century at Turaida resided several archbishops – Michael Hildebrandt, Jasper Linde, Johann VII Blankenfeld, Thomas Shöning, Wilhelm from Brandenburg and his co-adjudicator Christof of Mecklenburg. When the disputes between the Archbishopric and the Livonian Order became strained, in 1556, the Order declared war against archbishop. In June of that year the Turaida castle was captured, but the co-adjudicator Christof of Mecklenburg was imprisoned. In the nex year – 1557, the archbishop regained his possessions. During Livonian war, in 1566, the Archbishopric of Rīga was secularized. The sucularization took place in Grondno. Then, in 1571, the administrator of the Duchy of Pārdaugava Jan Chodkiewicz granted the castle to the baron Elert Kruse, the former bailiff of Tartu bishopric, the man, who had previously collaborated with Russian forces, but then he changed sides and served in Polish-Lithuanian forces. In fear that E.Kruse would be able to turn the Turaida castle over to the Russians, Jan Chodkiewicz entrusted his secretary Johann Biering to capture Turaida castle and  expell Elert Kruse. After the castle was captured, Johann Biering became its governor for a period of time, however, E.Kruse got back the Turaida castle in possession and kept it until 1585.

Through the period of time, until 1625, the owners of the Turaida castle changed hands several times unless and until the Swedish King Karl Gustav Adolf granted the Turaida castle district to Swedish State Councillor – Niels Shternsheld. As a result of many attacks, in the beginning of the 17th century, the fortifications of the castle were destroyed and it was necessary to start their reconstruction. The old paasageways and gate were renewed, in the north forecastle there was built a „blockhouse” – the platform for cannons above which there were located rooms for the guard. Also barracks for soldiers, bath-houses and stables were built. From the 17th century have preserved the oldest plans of the Turaida castle. However, from the 17th century already, losing its military significance and becoming a private property, the castle experienced gradual extinction though new structures were built outside the castle walls. In 1652, N.Shternsheld sold the castle to the baron Gotthard Johann Budberg and it belonged to this family until 1818. In the course of time the castle from the military fortification became the centre of estate. In 1776, due to incautious rifle shot the castle was on fire and wooden constructions burned down. The destroyed buildings were not renewed. In 1780, the Turaida castle was pledged to the district administrator Magnus von Helmersen but later it was redeemed by the members of the Budberg family. In the latter 18th century or in the beginning of the 20th century, the landlord built a living house  in the castle yard by  the Main Tower but medieval fortification structures were adjusted to economic needs. In 1818, the Turaida castle and estate were bought by  baron Hermann von Campenhausen, the owner of Ungurmuiža estate. The Turaida estate belonged to the Campenhausens until 1907, when it was inherited by Alexander Mattias Johan Staël von Holshtein.

After World War I, in 1920, as a result of agrarian reform the Turaida castle and estate became State property but inalienable part remained in possession of Staël von Holstein family. The State owned castle and estate were leased out to Rīga Latvian Teachers` Trade Union, which arranged a tourist house in the castle but on September 20, 1936 a viewing platform was installed on the upper floor of the Main Tower which was opened and consecrated in the festive ceremony. In the castle yard there were tidy paths, lawn and flowerbeds. In 1925, by decision of the Board of Monument Protection the Turaida castle ruins were entered into the list of the State Protected Monuments.

During the 1953-1962 period there was performed restoration of the Main Tower, West Block and defensive wall. After commissioning, on December 1, 1962, the restored buildings were given in charge to the Sigulda Local History Museum.

Since 1976,  voluminous archaeological excavations, which lasted more than 25 years, were started in the Turaida castle. At the same time architectonic investigation of the castle, restoration of the buildings, reconstruction and conservation of the exposed structures began.

The structures, discovered during archaeological excavations and exhibitions installed in the restored buildings provide an exciting story about the Middle Ages. The visitors can visit historical buildings, have a look into medieval cellars, prison, guard`s room and cannon room as well as to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the ancient Gauja valley from the top floor of the Main Tower.