29. Riga Castle
The building in the north-western part of Old Riga started in 1220 when Bishop Albert built a hospital there for the sick and the poor of all nationalities and orders. On June 15, 1330 the fundamentals of Riga Castle were laid in this place and its building was finished in 1353 (lead by a mason Ditrich Kreige). The building being specially fortified became a residence of The Livonian Order master. The inhabitants of Riga attacked the castle with special rage in the so-called Ten-year war (1481 - 1491) between the Order and the city. In 1481 after a siege of 6 months the castle garrison surrendered and the city council decided to destroy the castle. Supposedly this intention was only partly fulfilled, and by about 1515 the building was renovated during the rule of master Valter von Pletenberg thereby preserving its original structure.
Riga Castle (63 x 56 m) is the largest convent type building in Latvia. Two round towers raise in its north-eastern and south-eastern corners, and in the other two corners – towers of square stairs. Under the castle cellar is built, which from the beginning was partly above ground and lit through small windows from the yard. Munitions and food were stored in the cellar, and during attacks horses were hidden there.
The premises and cellars of the first floor were allocated as a storehouses of war materials, and as workrooms and food storerooms. The major premises was on the second floor, the most luxurious of them – in the southern (St. Andrei chapel, dining hall (remteris)) and eastern (Hall for chapter of priests) blocks. The kitchen and other household areas of the castle, and a master’s apartment were located in the western block, but in the northern aisle were the bedrooms for members of the order. The main second floor buildings had very high ceilings (7 metres) decorated with splendid arches. Unfortunately they were almost completely destroyed during rebuilding between the 17th – 19th centuries. The third floor of the castle served for defence: arrow slits were built in its outer walls.
In 1562 after the collapse of the Livonian Order and the formation of the Dukedom of Pārdaugava, Riga Castle became the residence of the Polish administration where starosta (Polish) and castle governor stayed with the garrison. In the Polish period several new buildings were built in the castle territory and all its complex was surrounded with earthen rampart and a broad water moat. In 1621 Riga was occupied by the Swedes and up till 1710 the castle was used for the needs of its administration. In 1649 the Swedes built a house in the north-western corner of the front castle and its bay was decorated with impressive mouldings, but in 1682 the arsenal was attached to the eastern block.
In 1783, when Riga for several decades had been under the rule of Russia, the arsenal was destroyed on the order of Georg von Braun, a governor general of Vidzeme. Net arches for the hall of chapter of priests were sacrificed to make room for wider premises of province administration. The rebuilding and attachment works continued in the castle throughout the 19th century. Thus the outer image of the castle, interior decoration and furnishings changed radically. By the end of the World War I, Riga Castle was taken over by Latvian State and it was assigned to the President of State. New rebuilding and decoration of representation premises started in the building. Presently Museum of Latvian History, Literature, Theatre and Music, as well Museum of Foreign Art is situated there.