Livonian Castle from the Fortress to the Exhibition:
Documentation, Conservation and Interpretation


PhD Research Theme, Art Academy of Latvija, Art science department
Arturs Lapins, architect, M.Sc.

Subject of the study are the ruins of the medieval castles located in the territory of Latvia, their technical state and the possibilities of use and interpretation in the 21st century. Based on the historic and architectural research, the original allocation of castles has been analyzed, focusing on the history of construction and defending capabilities and challenges. During the period of abandonment and decay the change of attitude towards these objects has been traced, as well as analyzed various approaches to their usage in the post-defence period. Based on the results of historic, architectural and landscape analysis, the problematic of usage of the ruins nowadays has been reviewed.
Medieval fortified structures and their ruins form a relatively small, but an essential part of European architectural and archaeological heritage. Similarly to other European countries, in Livonia construction of castles for the Order and higher clergy was significant and, practically, the only deliberate large-scale building activity. As purposefully constructed architectural complexes, castles gave a significant contribution to the development of local building traditions, as well as the spread of architectural styles. Being constructed during High and Late Middle Ages, most of them remained the centers of economic and political life up to the 18th century.
During the period from the 12th till the 16th centuries 136 stone castles had been built on the territory of contemporary Latvia. The increase of castle construction took place in the 14th century, when the higher clergy gave in its positions to the Order and became a part of Livonian state. Being built as closed structures, surrounded with walls, ditches and other attributes of military architecture, castles gradually lost their primary defensive function. In the course of time, they became open-air objects, available for the public. Nowadays, depending on their location, they are included into urban environment or rural landscape.
Transformation of castles into ruins and turning from buildings to freestanding spatial objects and landscape complexes were caused by different historical events, as well as outcomes of natural processes and human activity. From most of the castles, 55 remained in the condition of above-ground ruins3. On the basis of the analysis of these objects, the work provides a review of the process, which has been lasting for more than 300 years, due to which castles transformed from functional structures into the objects of landscape or open-air expositions.
Depending on the degree of erosion, ruins can be reviewed as both spatial and environmental objects. Being architectural sites, documentation and conservation measures, aimed at the research and preservation of castles should not greatly differ from the ones, carried out with other structures of architectural heritage. At the same time, the existing ruins are only one part of the initial complex, which was primarily intended for a completely different interaction with climate. Walls of former buildings, which upper parts were not intended for the direct influence of atmosphere and due to weather conditions, noticeably erode. In most of the cases, preservation of ruins is possible only after strengthening their overhead parts, carrying out stonework, as well as other means, which would alter the silhouette of the ruins. In some cases, sectional additions, bricklaying works of larger scale or constructive interference are necessary in order to secure the constructive stability of the fragments of stone buildings. These additions directly depend on the chosen display solutions, applied for the ruins, and their form significantly influences the overall outlook of the object after conservation is finished.
Subject of the Study
The castles on the territory of Livonia were built by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword (since 1237 - the Livonian order), bishops of Riga (since 1255 - archbishops), as well as Courlandian bishops and their vassals. The main list of Livonian castles was compiled by Balthasar Russow in his 1584 published chronicle:
“Here cities and strongholds, together with their villages, are in: Riga, Koknese, Cēsis, Valmiera, Lielvārde, Ādaži, Salaspils, Daugavgrīva, Dole, Limbaži, Sēlpils, Alūksne, Daugavpils, Ikšķile, Rauna, Cesvaine, Sigulda, Aizkraukle, Smiltene, Turaida, Krimulda, Gulbene, Saldus, Ludza, Rēzekne, Viļaka, Jaunpils, Straupe, Burtnieki, Trikāta, Rūjiena, Puiķele, Ērģeme, Augstroze, Mujāni, Ērgļi, Bērzaune, Kalsnava and other places”.
The work focuses on these and other castles (not mentioned in the chronicle), which exist up to this day as complete or partial ruins, and the way they are prepared for exposition, as well as the types of the corresponding conservation works. The work describes different approaches and analyzes already applied methods, as well as planned means, aimed at the preservation of local castle ruins, including documentation (measurements and research), conservation, restoration and exhibition. In addition to the territory of Latvia, the work touches upon other parts of former Livonia – territory of contemporary Estonia, as well as describes situation with Prussian castles. The work is based on the materials of the Historical Research of Latvian Castles, project materials from the Monument Documentation Center of the State Inspection for Heritage Protection, available archive materials, as well as field research of the Objects. Additionally, data from architectonic research of the castles, discussion results, project, in which the author had been involved for more than 10 years, solutions etc., were used. These separate castles are the castle of the Master of the Livonian order in Cēsis, castles of the Livonian order in Alūksne, Rēzekne and Ludza, as well as bishop’s castle in Koknese.

13.01.2017. Teksts un attēli Text and images (c) Arturs Lapins'2017
Teksta un/vai attēlu izmantošanas gadījumā atsauce uz autoru obligāta. If any part of text and / or pictures are used, refering to the author is mandatory.