The Order Castle

The oldest document mentioning construction of the castle is dated 1443, but in 1451 the Bauska Castle was included for the first time in the list of Livonian Order Castles. It mainly served as a military protection building in the southern border zone of Livonia, but at the same time – also as the administrative centre of the vogtey territory of Bauska.

The confluence of rivers Mūsa and Mēmele blocked the access to the castle from the south, west and north. To encumber the access from the east, an approximately two meters deep moat was located in front of the gate. A palisade made from logs was built along the moat. Later the moat was filled up and a more spacious wooden forepart of the castle was created, but in the first quarter of the 16th century a stone forepart of the castle with two four-storey towers on the east side was built.

 In the plan the castle was an irregular rectangular building with its widest part in the west and a narrowing in the east – instead of the main gate. In the main castle and forepart of the castle seven semicircular and square firearms towers protruding from the wall plane were built in the middle and corners of defensive walls. To ensure the resistance of stone walls against the damaging force of bullets, external walls of the fortress were built especially thick, but lower than those of the oldest Livonian Order Castles. The loopholes for cannons and small arms equipped with air channels were built in towers and defensive walls. During the conservation of stone walls, evidence has been found suggesting that along with the increasing use of firearms, defenders of the Bauska Castle had to make defensive walls thicker and higher, as well as to transform the southern wall's gate into a loophole for cannons. They had to make walls thicker, to rebuild the loophole and to wall up the fireplace next to the loophole on the level of the third storey of the southern tower.

Decorative shapes characteristic of the late gothic style dominating in Livonia in the 15th century can be seen in vaults of the castle's living rooms, in the form and finish of window and door openings and in architectural details the silhouettes of which we can only try to visualise nowadays. The castle's walls have been built from the local material – dolomite stones, boulders and bricks using lime as a binding material. Tower roofs were covered with semicircular tiles, while the facades and interior – with plaster. The decorative pointing of the plaster can be seen occasionally on facades.

 On the yard side of the main castle and forepart of the castle, buildings with single sloping roofs were built next to defensive walls. A two-storey residential building for garrison purposes was located by the castle's main northern wall. Household premises on the first storey of the building were covered by barrel-shaped vaults, but living premises on the second storey had flat cruciform vaults and narrow loopholes in the northern wall. The building's living premises were heated with the warm-air stove, but the tower's living premises – with fireplaces. The most luxurious living room with a starlike vault was on the second storey of the central tower. Both the yard of the main castle and that of the forepart of the castle were paved with crude dolomite stones; also rainwater drainage channels were made of these stones. In the middle of the main castle's yard, a well was located.

During the period from 1561 to 1562, the castle was in possession of Wilhelm, the Archbishop of Riga, the Duke of Brandenburg. It is likely that at that time in the northern wing the warm-air heating system was replaced with luxurious, polychrome tile stoves decorated with Renaissance ornaments and motives, but loopholes in the northern wall of garrison's living premises were transformed into windows. The plaster with red remains of decorative paint or painting has preserved in some bay windows and on walls of the western tower up to nowadays.

The Duke's residence

After establishment of the Duchy of Courland in 1562, the Bauska Castle was transferred into disposal of the first Duke of Courland, Gotthard Kettler. Along with the end of the Livonian War, most likely after 1584, adjustment of the fortification part of the Bauska Castle and rebuilding of the forepart of the castle into a residence typical of that era fortified with bastions and ramparts began for purposes of state protection, as well as economic and representative needs. After the death of the Duke Gotthard Kettler in 1587, the court and chancellery of his oldest son, the Duke Friedrich was moved to the Bauska Castle. The finishing of the new expanded Duke's residence was fully completed in 1596.

Facades of the building's parts were decorated with the finish made by the sgraphito technique characteristic of Mannerism creating an illusion as if the castle was built of squarestones. While facades of the building's part in possession of the lord of the manor were covered with even plaster. The eastern facade oriented towards the city was improved by constructing a roof with three-level pediment on the gable. The plane of the castle's external wall was accentuated by the large window openings fastened with iron lattice.

Premises of the new castle's northern and eastern wings were intended for the Duke and his court, but the southern part – for the hauptmann and servants. Premises on the first floor could be accessed by climbing the external staircase directly from the yard or a narrow walled-in staircase. Three stone columns in the middle part of the facade of the Duke's part of the building supported the balcony with a stone staircase leading from the yard to the Duke's apartments on the first floor of the northern part. The castle's gate was located in the southern part of the building under cover of the southeastern tower.

The castle's interior layout was simple. Premises were connected and laid out one after another. The plasticity of interior forms was created by the deep window openings in the thick stone walls and the rhythmical arrangement of massive ceiling beams. Hall floors were covered with wide boards, but in the Duke's apartments the floor ornament was formed of colourful and glazed clay tiles. In some premises, the floor was covered with large-size square dolomite flagstones. The window panes laid out in a geometric pattern within quadruple wooden frames were held by lead casings. Walls of premises were plastered, but some of them – decorated with paintings. Holes and small nails in the walls suggest that also wallpapers and wooden panels had been used as the finish for halls. The castle was heated with fireplaces and tile stoves made in Mannerism style. The Duke's bedroom had a fireplace made of forged stones. In addition, separate premises of the lord of the manor on the first floor of the building's southern part were decorated with paintings.

Premises on the graund floor of the building's southern and northern parts were used for household purposes. Their walls were plastered, but floors were covered with paved floor made of bricks, simple clay tiles or dolomite stones. Two of the premises on the first storey of the building's northern part were covered by flat cruciform vaults, but the other three – by wooden beams and board ceiling.  The graund floor of the castle's southern part contained the stable, premises for castle's servants, the guard room, and a cellar below the middle section. The entrance into the yard was locked by double oaken gate. The graund floor of the southeastern tower included a cart-house.

During the construction, earth fortifications were built around the castle. At the end of the 16th century, a roundel for placement of cannons was heaped up around the southeastern tower. The castle's plan dated 1625 shows a protection system consisting of two bastions (they are connected by the stone wall with an earthen bank) and ramparts on the banks of the both rivers. The entrance into the castle was via the northeastern bastion.   

Downfall of the Castle

In the middle of the 17th century, extensive repairs were done in the castle. The roof was changed, stoves were rebuilt, doors and windows were restored, and the magnificent entrance into the representation rooms in the building's northern part was torn down and rebuilt, as well as a new gate was built. The state treasury of the Duke Jacob paid approximately 12,000 state thalers for the repairs.

Along with the Great Northern War approaching in the second half of the 17th century, fortifications were secured in the western part, reconstruction of eastern bastions began and a lift bridge was built over the moat. Modernisation of fortifications was continued during the Great Northern War by the Swedes who had taken over the Bauska Castle, but the Czar of Russia Peter I later occupying the castle ordered his generals in 1706 to completely destroy the castle's defensive buildings. The explosion most severely damaged bastions, earthen ramparts and the castle's newest part – the Duke's residence. The massive building gradually turned into ruins.

Created – Hofmanstudio