Ludza is a typical Latgale small town in the east of the region, 248 km from Riga. It is located at a beautiful, hilly site encircled by five lakes, and preserves memories of ancient, glorious times when significant Latgalian settlements stood here and a lively trading road wound its way through the Latgale Highland.
History. According to archeological data, the territory of Ludza has been inhabited since the Iron Age. In the 14th century the Brothers of the Order built a stone castle on the hill where a fortified Latgalian castle had once stood. A settlement grew up alongside it, which was destroyed numerous times from the 15th to the 18th centuries by both Russian and Swedish forces (sources from 1765 show that by then the castle was already in ruins).
After the Livonian War (1558 - 1583) Ludza was incorporated into the Trans Daugava Duchy, but after the Polish-Swedish War (1600 - 1629) it became part of the Commonwealth. Until the partition of Poland in 1772, it was the administrative and spiritual; centre of the local steward district. Ludza’s inhabitants mainly worked in small trading and crafts. In 1777, soon after Latgale’s annexation by Russia, Ludza was granted a district town charter. A year later, Czarina Catherine II approved a building plan for Ludza. In the 18th century the town had established itself on the southeastern shore of Lake Lielā (Great) Ludza and the southern shore of Lake Mazā (Small) Ludza. There were only a few buildings to the northwest of the river connecting both lakes. Although the building of the Moscow-Ventspils railway (1900) boosted the town’s growth, essentially Ludza never outgrew its late 18th century boundaries. The fire of 1938 was fateful for the city, with the destruction of 370 buildings including the impressive Ludza Catholic Parish Church (consecrated 1742).
Places of interest. The most fascinating place in Ludza for visitors to Latgale is the hill fortress with the ruins of the Order Castle. This is located on a spit of land between the great and small Ludza lakes, encircling the hill fortress with natural barriers (water and a steep gully) on three sides. On the south-eastern side the inner and outer forecastle is bordered by artificial moats. The castle, which had a rectangular form and an annex facing northeast, was located in the northwest corner of the forecourt courtyard. Traces in the castle walls indicate that this was a three-story structure with a weapons gallery ion the top floor. Both field stones and bricks were used in the castle’s construction. A pointed arcature belt and a decorative motif made from clinker bricks can still be found on the north-eastern outer wall, which is found relatively rarely in the early architecture of Livonian Order castles. The remains of the wall surrounding the forecastle reveal that it belongs to the so-called shell-wall type.
The Holy Mother of God Catholic Church built in the castle’s outer forecourt in the mid 18th century burned to the ground in 1938. Only its bell tower has survived to this day. The fact that the tower’s upper foundations are made from small or so-called Dutch bricks is noteworthy. This was common in Latvia’s coastal regions in the third quarter of the 18th century, but is found in only a few places in Latgale.
The Karņicki family crypt (18th century) rises on a small foothill alongside the bell tower. This structure built on the centric principle has a regular octagonal form. This layout is rare for Latgale, and completely absent from the region’s large churches.
The architecture of Ludza’s historic centre is dominated by the Uspenski Orthodox Church (1843). Unlike the aforementioned building, this church is a standard structure whose cross cupola layout is augmented by a portico and tower above the front of the church.