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Castle of Piltene

Location: N57° 13` 21.1", E21° 40` 0.73"

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Piltene was the main castle for Kurzeme bishops. An exact time of its construction is no known, but there are guesses that it could be in 1242 – there have been a large rock above the castle gates and this number was engraved in it, however J.G. Arnt in his castle list has mentioned 1295. None of these years have actually valid explanation, but it is known that the name of Piltene in written sources was first mentioned in 1309 when Lithuanians invaded and destroyed the castle, but did not manage to take the castle.

On September of 1234, William of Modena made Dominicam monk Engelbert as the first bishop of Kurzeme. It is generally considered to think of year 1234 as the foundation year of Kurzeme diocese. In 1236 he bishop was killed during the uprising of the curonians followed after the battle of the Sun when the Livonian Brothers of the Sword was completely destroyed. In the middle of September of 1237, papal legate William of Modena made a limitation of diocese, which meant to set borders between Livionian, Kurzeme and Zemgale dioceses. Livonia diocese added new lands - the new border started from the bishop’s Koknese castle and was going in a straight line to the outfall of Abava. 

Creation period of diocese ended only in 1290. Since that time Kurzeme dome order, together with bishop, were incorporated in German order, and all the later dome mayors and bishops came from German order. Order was able to act with Kurzeme war call-up, places of bishop and 6 dome mayors (pope, dean, treasurer, economist and 2 canonists). The whole fee system and usually also Kurzeme bishop policy was under the influence of the order. It actually meant that Kurzeme diocese had become one of German orders branches. 

Around the 15th century there was a habit that each candidate chosen by the dome capitol had first receive confirmation from Livonia master, and only after receiving it, German orders highest master proponed him to pope for designation. In popes’ court, Kurzeme bishop was represented by German order prosecutor, and the bishop had to participate in his expenses. In his own land the bishop had a judge, to whom bishop landed a land for his services. Kurzeme bishop also had a clerk, notary and different familiars. In Embute region bishop had craftsman named burg-count. Separate fragmentary sources show that Kurzeme bishop and dome capitol sometimes caused arguments with Livonian order because of the borders of separate castle regions, but these arguments never reached a military collision. 

***Legend about Piltene castle ***

The legend tells that a free peasant daughter lived in Piltene castle, with whom the landlord fell in love, and when she refused to meet, he accused the daughter in stealing bread form the castle kitchen. Later the nibbled bread was found in a rat cave, but it was too late. The girl received death penalty by being hanged. On the gallows hill the innocent girl cursed Piltene, that it will never grow, will never thrive until its name will be changed. For many years Piltene was a poor and illiberal small town. There was no industry and the traders had to pay very high taxes.