Museum Reserve

The historical centre of Turaida

The Turaida Museum Reserve was established in the historical centre of Turaida and on the basis of the Sigulda Local History Museum, by virtue of Instruction No. 361 of the Soviet Latvian Council of Ministers (4 November 1988), “On the Establishment of the Turaida Museum Reserve.”  The collection of the museum reserve is based on the rich environmental, tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the historical centre of Turaida, as developed over the course of the past millennium.

The aim of the museum reserve is to preserve for future generations one of the oldest sets of cultural monuments inLatvia– the one that is found in the historical centre of Turaida.  The region has been declared to be a specifically protected cultural monument with specific historical, scientific and cultural values which are a part of the national wealth of theRepublicofLatvia.

The Turaida Museum Reserve is a national museum, and its mission is to establish a harmonic society by demonstrating the development of Latvian thinking via the environmental, cultural and historical treasures which have been collected in and around Turaida during the past millennium.

The historical centre of Turaida includes nearly all of the elements of typical cultural and historical centres in Latvia – a hill fort  with the foundations of a wooden castle, a Medieval stone castle, a church, a cemetery, the buildings of a baronial estate, the centre of a kolkhoz, a park, a system of ponds, green areas, roads, paths and routes, and a cultural and historical landscape to bring it all together.  There are plenty of cultural and historical centres inLatvia, both in cities and in rural areas.  This particularly applies to former baronial estates.  The historical centre of Turaida, however, is particularly attractive, because it is on the banks of the ancient Gauja River Valley and is part of the territory of the Gauja National Park.

The museum reserve seeks to study, maintain and preserve buildings in the historical centre of Turaida – monuments which are found in a territory of 43.63 ha.  The preservation of existing monuments is guaranteed because of their use, which is in line with the status of monuments.  There is much respect not just for the buildings, but also for their history and content.  Monuments cannot be split apart from the history to which they stand witness or from the environment in which they are found.  Buildings which are monuments are found in the open air, are used as exhibition facilities, and provide services to the infrastructure of the museum reserve.  Irrespective of its age, level of presentation and historical or other cultural value, each building is studied, documented and maintained.  The same is true of the natural environment of the centre, which has emerged over the course of the millennium and represents the living space, cultural environment and natural heritage of local residents.  This, too, is studied, examined and documented.

The buildings in the historical centre of Turaida feature 38 museum exhibitions at this time.  These speak to events in this territory in the context of historical events in Latviaand elsewhere in Europe.  The exhibitions are based on the rich and interesting collection of the museum reserve, which contains nearly 85,000 individual items.

The museum reserve tells a story about the past millennium in Turaida, starting with Folk Song Park(Tautasdziesmu parks) and Folk Song Hill (Dainu kalns). This is a message about the importance of language and the sense of people’s lives that is included therein.  There is also the perception and value system of Latvian folk songs in terms of what has happened in the world.

An exhibition about the Liv people of the Gauja region is the oldest one in terms of the tangible cultural heritage of Turaida.  It is found in the restored gardener’s house of the old Turaida Estate.  The Livs are the second indigenous ethnos of Latvia, with an ancient and unique culture and a wealth of history.  The Liv language belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of languages.  Latvia’s rich and unique cultural heritage represents a merger of Finno-Ugric and Indo-European culture.  During the late 12th century Livs populated a large area along the lower reaches of the Gauja River.  We are aware of 13 hill forts from that period.  The Turaida Museum Reserve is in the central part of the ancient castle district of the Livs of the Gauja.  Evidence of Liv culture can be found on the Turaida hill fort, where a wooden Liv castle once stood, on Church hill, where the first baptised Livs were buried, and Folk Song Hill or Jelgavkalns hill, where a Liv village was found long, long ago.

The stone castle at Turaida holds a particular spot in the history ofLatvia, and it is an important element in the country’s cultural and historical heritage.  No other Medieval castle in theBaltic Stateshas attracted more archaeological attention.  For more than 25 years, the archaeologist Jānis Graudonis has led a team to examine the castle from that perspective.  Construction of the castle began in 1214, and over the course of the subsequent centuries, the structure has undergone many historical changes.  During various periods of its existence, not least today, its importance has changed for political, economic or other reasons.  Sometimes the castle has testified to the strength of foreign powers.  At one time it was an object of dispute during the feudal wars of the small countries of Livonia.  It stood witness to major military conflicts such as the Livonian War, the Polish-Swedish War and the Great Northern War.  Later it became the most visually impressive part of the estate that represented feudal private property.  Today, the Turaida castle is an outstanding monument of archaeology, architecture and history, as well as a popular tourism destination at the Baltic level.  Exhibitions in the castle refer to the construction of the stone structure, the history of the building’s use until a fire in 1776, the arrival of Christianity in the region, the history of the archbishopric of Rīga, the region in the Middle Ages, and the region at the dawn of the new era.

The Turaida church, which was built in 1750, is one of the oldest wooden churches in Latvia.  It has survived to the present day without many changes at all.  From the 13th to the 18th century, there was a cemetery surrounding the area where the church is found.  A memorial to the Rose of Turaida can be found here.  She is a woman who testifies to loyal love, honour and the strength of the individual.

The restored buildings in the centre of the former estate tell a story about how the estate was governed and about its economic life from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century.  The Turaida Estate was first established in the 16th century, and intensive expansions of the estate occurred after a fire in the castle in 1776.  Much research and restoration work remains to be done at the centre of the estate so as to preserve the beautifully landscaped cultural environment and system of ponds which date back to the 19th century.

There were several rounds of land reform in Latviaduring the 20th century.  In the 1930s, the Turaida Estate was split up into individual farms, and in 1947, Turaida became the centre for an agricultural operation.  The Sigulda Local History Museum, which was originated in 1949 in Sigulda, moved to Turaida in 1963.

The exhibitions at the museum reserve speak to the wealth and dramatic nature of events which occurred in the specific territory that is known as the historical centre of Turaida.  The exhibitions which have been installed by staff at the museum reserve show that life represents countless changes and shifts over the course of the millennium that began in the 11th century and has continued to this very day.  The historical centre of Turaida has been preserved and maintained because of public interest in it.  It is characterised by an environmental, cultural and historical environment, monuments, as well as a tangible and intangible heritage which confirms all that has occurred in the past.  The museum reserve understands that the environmental and cultural heritage of the region is of global value because of its great diversity, and so the museum reserve preserves the interesting and diverse heritage, as well as the collective experience of the Latvian people, thus trying to enrich the world’s experience and knowledge.

Welcome to Turaida!

Anna Jurkāne Museum director

Turaida Museum Reserve