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Medieval castle
Cesis Medieval Castle




Cēsis Castle (formerly Wenden) is particularly significant to the medieval history of the Baltic region as one of the key political, administrative and economic centres of the Teutonic Order in Livonia. Today, it is one of the best preserved and most dramatic ruined castles in Latvia.

The first castle in Cēsis was built by the Order of Swordbrothers around 1209 on the site of a pre-crusade hillfort inhabited by the local ethnic group of ancient Latvia - the Wends. Documentary and archaeological evidence suggests that the Swordbrothers lived in this castle together with the Wends up to 1214 when new stone castle was built by the Swordbrothers on the edge of the nearby plateau. In 1237, the castle was taken over by the Teutonic Knights and it became the seat of the first master of the Order’s Livonian branch (often referred to as the Livonian Order). Although subsequent masters of the Order chose the castle of Rīga as their principal place of residence, masters returned to Cēsis during the periods of danger and instability when the Order came into conflict with the town of Rīga or the Archbishopric of Rīga. Finally, at the end of the fifteenth century, the Order's administrative headquarters was relocated from Rīga to Cēsis, and it became the permanent residence of the masters. Medieval documentary sources often refer to the castle of Cēsis as both a meeting place of the General Chapter of the Order and a place from which documents were issued.

The first serious damage was done to the castle only in the Livonian War (1558-1583), but it was finally abandoned in the early eighteenth century and since that castle felt gradually into decay. In the mid-eighteenth century, former gatehouse of the castle was converted into a manor-house.