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JERSIKA (GERCIKE)

          Jersika Castle and its ancient village, which is located on the right bank of the Daugava about 50 km from Preiļi, was the administrative and spiritual centre of the ancient Latgalian state of Jersika in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the early 13th century its ruler was Visvaldis (Visevalds), who is referred to in the Chronicles of Heinrich of Livonia as its king (rex). He paid tithes to the Duke of Polock and was related to the Lithuanian ruling elite (Visvaldis’ wife was the daughter of the Lithuanian noble Dangerūts). This was the justification used by Bishop Albert in unleashing aggression against Jersika. In 1209 the bishop’s troops, whose ranks included Christian Livonians and Latgalians, occupied, ravaged and looted Jersika castle and its town. The members of Visvaldis’ family were taken captive. In order to have them set free, Visvaldis was forced to submit and become a vassal of Bishop Albert. In 1936 archaeological digs found that the plateau of Jersika Hill Fortress (100 x 75 m) was destroyed together with its earthen wall and wooden protective fence. It was only possible to enter the fortified town, which in addition to residential and commercial buildings also housed an Orthodox church, through a carefully guarded gate.
           Archaeological digs have uncovered the remains of log house-type structures (some of these buildings were artisans’ workshops), ancient Latgalian artifacts and crosses, beads and other items (10th century – early 13th century) brought in from ancient Rus.

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