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Castle of Cesis

Location: N57° 18` 47.6", E25° 16` 16.9" | Website: cesupils.lv/

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Cesis medieval castle served as a residency for master of Livonian Order for a long time, and it also served as territory administration centre. Based on Chronicles of Henry of Livonia, the building of Cesis castle was started on about 1207.-1209.

The castle is mostly built from light dolomite stones. One of its frontal castles was rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century, where the new Cesis castle was located – today this complex is one of the national archeology monuments and one of the national architecture monuments.

Cesis medieval castle is a type of Livonia Order castellan castles. At first this castle served as the support point for knights of Livonian Brothers of the Sword – castle serves this purpose up to the collapse of Livonian Order. During the ruling time of the next owner – German Order – the castle gained the title of the most magnificent stronghold. The castle was residency of Livonia land masters of German Order (commanders-in-chief of Livonian Order); the higher commanders gathered here for annual meetings. 

In 1481, the master of order, during the war between Livonia and Russia, moved from Riga to Cesis castle – at this time castle received a higher meaning. Together with moving of order’s master, archive of Livonia, gold, silver and other treasure savings were also moved to Cesis castle. From 1494 – 1535 Cesis castle experienced special blooming, which was during the time of order’s master Wolter von Plettenberg. Round artillery tower was built, the Northern tower got additional cylindrical upper part with living room for the master which was covered with luxurious valve full of stars, but the walls were plastered and religious stories were painted on them. Up to 1561, Cesis were the centre of Livonian Order. 

The castle significantly suffered in 1577, when it was attacked by army of Ivan the Terrible. About 300 people who were looking for cover in the castle committed suicide, blowing themselves up with the gunpowder. Western building of the castle was not renovated after the blow-up. As the artillery was developing very fast, the ancient stronghold lost its military meaning but the castle was still used as a living space until the end of 17th century. In 18th century castle was used as construction materials extraction site, but from the beginning of the 19th century it has been included in park as part of the romantic view. 

After division of Livonia between Poland and Sweden in 1582, “Livonian catholic Diocese” center, renewed in territory of Polish dependent Pārdaugava Duchy, was located in Cesis castle. Later in 1604, the rooms of Southern building were accidentally blown up but, in 1626 castle was taken by Swedish army. During the Swedish war in 1703, castle was completely destroyed, and it’s been abandoned since then – rain and frost gradually destroyed buildings, left without roofs, but civilians used the castle stone walls as quarries. 

During the 2nd part of the 17th century, the meaning of Cesis medieval castle was growing smaller, especially after manor reduction organized by Swedes in 1681, and demolishing of convent building, done by Swedish soldiers. Cesis castle only had local economic function as the centre of manor, whose buildings were located in second frontal castle, but convent building and the first frontal castle got abandoned. The castle was abandoned also after when Vidzeme was included in structure of Russian Empire, because the owners did not live in Cesis, and it is thought that they did not visit this place on regular basis. The situation changed only in about 1770, when the baron Wulf ordered to rebuild part of the New castle into living area. 
In 1777, baron Wulf sold the castle to Zievers dynasty (from 1777 – 1917 it belonged to Zievers). 

***Legends of Cesis medieval castle ***

It is told that under the stone walls of Cesis castle there are basements where different things are hidden. In one of the basements there is a large iron box, full with gold and silver things, but on the box sits a large, black dog with fiery eyes, not letting anyone near the box. Underground paths are also located under these basements. One rascal once went down into the basements. After some time he exit through sandstone cavern in the park of castle. The brave one got large silver lantern with him, but he was gone mute and couldn’t tell a thing.

From Great Hell (cave in Cesis district’s Liepa parish) there was a way to German baron’s castle in Cesis. Once upon a time, one brave guy wanted to check whether it is actually possible to get from the cave to the castle. The guy entered the cave but never came out of it. Only later civilians found out that he was flogged so long until he eventually died. The cave has been called theGreat Hell since then.  

Model of Cesis medieval castle before excavation in 1970ies (without the blown-up Western building, about which no-one actually didn’t know at that time).