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HAAPSALU EPISCOPAL CASTLE (The White Lady)

Location: N58° 56` 49.9", E23° 32` 18.9"

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Haapsalu Castle was founded in the middle of 13th century and became the centre of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek in 1269 as a state of the Holy Roman Empire and and was the extension of the Pope for about 300 years. In 1279 Haapsalu was given the rights of the city by Bishop Hermann I. The castle extends on 3 hectares. Its construction, expansion and reconstruction took place through several centuries with the architecture changing according to the development of weapons. The castle achieved its final dimensions in 16th century having strong walls and huge cannon towers in order to resist firearms. The thickness of the wall was between 1.2 and 1.8 metres and the maximum height reached over 10 metres. The length of the wall was 803 metres and it had 7 defence towers. The stronghold was severely damaged during the Livonian War and was remained in ruins until 1625 when the King of Sweden, Gustav II Adolf sold Haapsalu town, castle and its surroundings to count Jacob De la Gardie who planned to turn the ruins into a modern palace. The Count's Garden was also established with ponds in it. After the Northern War the castle went under Russian Crown and remained empty and in ruins. 

In the castle's territory there is the Cathedral of Haapsalu which is the biggest single-nave church in the Baltic and Northern countries. The patron saint of the church is St. John, because the church was the main church of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, where the throne, the official chair of the Bishop, was situated and where the Chapter of the Bishopric worked. During the Livonian War when Estonia became a part of the Lutheran Swedish Kingdom, the church started to hold Lutheran services. During the Soviet era the church was closed. For some time it was used to store grain, even plans for turning it into a swimming-pool were made. In 1971 the reconstruction works of the church started in order to turn it into a concert hall. Now it is an active church again.  

Today there is a museum in the main building of the castle which introduces the history of the castle and medieval weapons. In the courtyard there is a place where different concerts and other events are held. The most popular festival in Haapsalu is The White Lady Days music festival which is held annually in August at the time of full moon. According to the legend an image of a maiden, The White Lady, who is the best-known of Estonian ghosts, appears on the inner wall of the chapel then. It is told, that during the reign of Ösel-Wiek Bishop, every canon had to live a chaste and virtuous life according to the rules of monastery. No woman could enter the castle. Once happened, that a young canon fell in love with an Estonian girl and brought secretly the maiden into the castle. She was dressed like a choirboy and lived there for a while. But when the bishop visited Haapsalu again, he found the out about the fraud. The bishop and the council decided to immure the girl in the wall of the chapel and the canon was put in prison cell where he starved to death. The builders left a cavity into the wall and the poor girl with a piece of bread and a mug of water was walled in. For some time her cries for help were heard. Yet her soul couldn't find peace and since then she appears on the chapel's window to grieve for her beloved man and to prove the immortality of love.