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Powder Tower

Location: N56° 57` 4.31", E24° 6` 31.16" | Website: karamuzejs.lv/

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Powder Tower, used to also be called Sand tower, is one on the few preserved guard towers of medieval Riga. It is a national architectural monument and at the moment is in actual possession and use of the state agency “Latvian War Museum.”

It used to be an important element of Riga stronghold, because it was guarding the entrance to city – the main Riga road with the Eastern world. The diameter of the tower is 14,3m, height – 25,5m, but the thickness of the walls is around 3m.

The tower was first mentioned in 1330 as Sand tower – the name came from the sand stones in front of the tower. The entrance to the tower was 5m above ground and it was possible to enter the building only through very narrow stairs. During the Swedish attack in 1621 it was destroyed – only the basement left untouched, which saved as a foundation for the construction of the Powder tower which is seen up to today. The Swedes thoroughly destroyed the Sand tower that time, and it was renewed only in 17th century. The main function of the tower then was to keep the gunpowder – that is how the Powder Tower name appeared.

In horizontal crosscut tower was in a form of a horseshoe: in some places the 2m thick tower walls were directed to the outer side of the city, but the wall inside the city was made of wood. The name of the Powder Tower exists since the 17th century (it is told that the gunpowder was kept there since 1650). There were 11 cannons and a “bomb catcher” installed in the tower: a meter thick ceiling made of oak and pine tree beams were hanged between the fifth and sixth floor.

Later there was a prison, torture chambers, and the guns were kept there up until 1883. The tower was abandoned after the destruction of city fortifications, and only thing that lived in the tower now were pigeons.

In the 19th century it was taken by German student corporation Rubonia who repaired it, but after the World War I and Independence of Latvia a Latvian War Museum was established. An additional building was built at the end of 1930 for the needs of the museum – a special museum building.

Latvian SSR Revolution museum was located here after the WW II, but after the renewing of Independence of Latvia, Latvian War Museum went back to its premises.


Weather vanes were integral accessories of the Powder tower – they adorned the tower since the medieval period. The first weather vane was sketched by Jürgen Helm in 15th century, but Niclas Mollyn continued this work in 17th century. An accident happened when Riga was under ruling of Poles – the weather vane fell of the roof. There were people who told that it is a bad sign and that a misfortune will happen. They were right because few days later the King Stephen Báthory was suddenly dead.