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History of the Riga Castle

Construction of a castle on the bank of River Daugava was commenced in 1330 when the citizens of Riga, defeated in a war with the Livonian Order (1297-1330), were forced to replace the destroyed castle of the Order with a new one not in the city but close to it at the site of the former hospital of the Holy Ghost. The Riga Castle became the residence of the Masters of the Livonian Order.

In 1481, a war flared up between the Livonian Order and the city of Riga again. In 1484, the people of Riga sacked the castle once again. All that was left was a part of the Tower of the Holy Spirit, which was used as a lighthouse for ships on the river, along with a part of the castle’s defensive ramparts. Because of constant quarrels among the Livonian Order, the archbishop and the city of Riga, the Master of the Order moved his headquarters to Vilande and then to Cesis.

Once the Order took the upper hand over the city once again, a treaty was signed (the Valmiera Agreement) which said that during the next six years, the people of Riga had to rebuild the castle. However, the process took until 1515. The Master of the Order did not move back to the Riga Castle until the last Master, Gotthard Kettler. The Castle was home to knights of the Order and their commander until 1562 when the Livonian Order was dissolved.

A probable appearance of the Castle in the 14th century, reconstruction by A.Tulse, 1937. Photo:

The Castle Square in the mid-19th century. J.Radeckis, circa 1840. Photo:

Once the feudal states of Livonia were dissolved in the latter half of the 16th century, the Riga Castle was alternately home to officials from Poland (1578-1621), Sweden (1621-1710), and Russia (1710-1917). Institutions related to those officials were also housed there.




Reconstruction of the Riga Castle  

The Castle was constructed as a three-storey enclosed four-sided building with an inner yard and towers in the corners. The two round towers located diagonally opposite each other were the key ones, the Tower of the Holy Spirit in the northwest and the Lead Tower in the southeast, the two other quadrangular towers had staircases in them. The castle grounds with household buildings stretched to the north of the castle.

The ground floor was foreseen for household needs and the castle guard, the second floor, the arms floor, was without ceiling and partitions, and its narrow wood-covered windows were used as loopholes. On the first floor, the living apartments were situated like rooms of the Master of the Order, a dining hall, bedrooms of the knights, chapel of the castle, and a hall for meetings of the chapter of priests.