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Castle of Dundaga

Location: N57° 30` 36.7", E22° 21` 20.5" | Website: visit.dundaga.lv/destinations/dundagas_pils/

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The construction of Dundaga castle was started in 1249. It was castella type castle, belonging to Riga dome capitol. It has been rebuilt for several times and has changed its functions during the centuries – from stronghold to manor house. The castle is located on a peninsula, which was made by flooding Pace river, which was a perfect place in terms of security.

An intendant assigned by dome capitol was always living in Dundaga castle – vogt. Dundaga vogt and dome master Johan are mentioned in a document from 1310. Arguing with Riga archbishop, Livonia order in 1318, 1359 and 1383 occupied Dundaga castle in favor of Kurzeme diocese. In the newly obtained castle, Kurzeme bishops spent a lot of time at least two times – in 1459 and 1503.  

Soon after the beginning of the Livonian war in 1559, Kurzeme bishop Johan IV sold the diocese to the Danish King. The last gave it as a gift for his brother Magnus, who became the new Kurzeme bishop. However Magnuss sold Dundaga to Polish chancellor Martin Berzevic in 1582, while he sold it to Levin Below in 1588, and Belows started to intermarry with Maidel family.

During the Polish-Swedish war in 1656, Dundaga was invaded and robbed by Swedes after the artillery shooting. At that time castle belonged to Otto Ernst Maidel. At the end of the 17th century Dundaga castle had fully lost its stronghold meaning – it was remade as a mansion of a rich landlord. The castle has suffered from fire in 1872 and 1905, but the castle was renewed both times.

Dundaga caste is built on a long and narrow peninsula, from three sides surrounded by Pace river flooded water. There have been basements under the castle with entrances from the yard.


As the legend goes, there was a beautiful castle in Dundaga. Those times an old king ruled over Dundaga region. He was considered to be very rich. Everything would be good if misfortune didn’t strike the king’s country. The king got into fight with the neighboring king who was a sorcerer. They made an agreement that if the neighboring king wins then Dundaga will disappear as it has never stood there before. Local citizens will also disappear together with the castle. Those days the city was not yet called Dundaga and the king told that the castle will be able to rise above the ground only when someone says the new name of the city.

So it happened as it was told. King of Dundaga lost the bet. One morning local citizens saw a large black cave with old iron ladder going down it where once the castle was standing. The cave scared each and everyone – it was thought that the cave bring unfortunate, because those who decided to look into the cave, were never seen again.

One day a shepherd, who was a young boy, was looking his sheep not far from the cave. As he was not a local boy, he did not know anything about the cave. He decided to take a look in it. The boy went down the ladder which led to a small, narrow tower. The boy saw a bell in there. The bell was large, black and covered with rust of many centuries. The boy didn’t think much and pulled the bell; a hollow and sad sound was made. The boy thought: “Strange.” The bell was kind of saying word “Dun-dang,” and when listening to the sound of the bell, the boy repeated “Dun-da-ga.”

Once he said these words, the black cave collapsed and citizens saw a castle on the very same place. The name of the castle was guessed. No one knew anything about the boy. That is how Dundaga castle got the new name and the surrounding place was called Dundaga as well. The name is still the same even today. On the place where the castle was one standing now is only ruins.