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Castle of Riga

Location: N56° 57` 3.42", E24° 6` 2.093"

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Riga castle (Riga order castle) is a medieval castle. Riga castle is the biggest castellum type building in Baltic States. The main castle consists of four buildings with the inner yard. Circles are built in two of its corners. Riga castle is the residency of the President of Republic of Latvia, which is located in the heart of Old Riga, on the coast of river Daugava. It is an essential heritage of Latvian history and culture

Riga used to be a residency of Livonian order master from the 40ties of the 14th century up to 1429. On the spring of 1330, the more than 30 years long war between Riga and order ended with the defeat of Rigans. Order master was living in the castle, but in the documents of the 14th and 15th century is noted also the commandery and the building commandery.

An armed conflict rose between Riga city civilians and the castle in 1454, which ended with a settlement. After this agreement, order master allowed the Rigans to build a stone wall between the city and the castle, which was not in its place after 1330.

In 1481 the war began between the order and Rigans, and Rigans invaded the castle and demolished it during the war. Livonian order archive, and also gold, silver treasure and other savings were kept in the castle, which was taken from Riga to Cesis shortly before the events of 1481. As shown in revision materials, comparing to other order castles, Riga had the largest amounts of food and armor. But after 10 years of fights with Rigans it had to surrender, and the order required building a castle again. The construction works were started in 1497, and completed around 1515. It is shown in writings under the images of St.Mary and Plettenberg above the castle entrance. The castle was built on the place where the old castle was once standing, and partially on the outline of the previous order castle. Massive Holy Spirit and Plumb towers were additionally built this time. Initially castle got small, square stair towers in opposite corners. The castle has experiences many rebuilding’s during the time.  

W.Plettenberg and the next masters didn’t choose Riga castle as their residency. Castle administrator was living in the newly built castle. In 1562 the last master of the order – Gothard Kettler freed order knights from their duties for the master and his ruling regalia passed to Polish Kings’ representative Mikołaj "the Black" Radziwiłł.

In 1621 Riga fell into ruling of Swedes. In 1622 castle arrangement works were started, but in the 17th century a bigger castle rebuilding was made. In 1649 the frontal castle in Northwest corner was constructed with a bay adorned with moldings. In 1682 Swedish government expanded the castle with additional buildings.

The old castle suffered from Riga bombardment during the Northern war. When it got in subordination of Russia in 1710, Riga castle became the residency of Riga General Governor, also keeping other functions: there were storehouses in the building, civil instances, official apartments, etc. Vidzeme governors were living there from 1795-1917. Swedish built arsenal was demolished in 1783, and a new representative building was built in its place, which completely changed the castle façade.  

The only preserved artistic detail from the 16th century is the sculptural molding of order patroness Mary and Livonian order master Wolter von Plettenberg in the yard above the former castle gates.

***Legends about Riga castle***

There are several stories and legends about Riga castle, as it is with every old castle. Riga castle has its own ghost too, although no one has ever seen it, only heard the furniture being moved.

But once upon a time there was observed a sign in Riga castle which predicted the destiny of Livonia. In 1579 when King Stephen surrounded Polotsk, a stork flew to the castle- it wanted to build a nest on the place where a crow had been lived for tens of years. After a fight which was one month long, the stork cast the crow out. The sigh readers explained – the crow had to be understood as the time of German ruling, but he stork who cast him out – was Poles who took German place in Livonia.