Cesis

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Cēsis (German: Wenden) is a town in Latvia located in the northern part of the Vidzeme Central upland. Cēsis is on the Gauja River on high hillocks with terraces, overlooking the blue woods of the ancient river valley. It is the capital of Cesis County.

Castle park in Cesis
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Castle park in Cesis

The castle park with castle mound and ruins

The oldest settlement in Cēsis is the hill fort on Riekstu hill, a fortified wooden castle built by a tribe known as the Vends. The 18m high mound with its partly-preserved fortification system can still be seen in the Castle Park. This settlement was located near major trade routes from west to east and commanded the regional countryside.

German crusaders known as the Livonian Order began construction of a castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. In 1577 the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis castle estate was obtained by the Count Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower. Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding foot-paths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins.

The town

Monument of Victory in Cēsis
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Monument of Victory in Cēsis

The planning of the town of Cēsis was done in the second half of the 13th century. The market place with a church was in the centre of the town. The centre of housing was the stone castle of the Livonian Order with its three fortified forecastles. The town was also encircled by a dolomite stone wall with eight towers and five gates. Buildings from the medieval ages include St. John's Church (built 1281-1284), the ruins of the Order's castle, and fragments of the fortification walls at Vaļņu and Palasta Streets. In addition, the ancient road network and building plots have survived from medieval times, although many of the buildings themselves have been ruined through wars and fires (the last in 1748). Buildings from the 18th century can be seen at 16 and 25 Rīgas Street, while houses built in the first part of the 19th century are at 15 and 47 Rīgas Street, 6 Gaujas Street, and other urban roads.

In the second half of the 19th century, the construction of the Rīga-Pleskava highway (1868) and the Rīga-Valka railway line (1889) facilitated the development of the town. Raunas Street, leading from the railway station to the Old Town, was developed as a wide, presentable street with the Latvian Society House at 10 Raunas Street (architect A. Malvess), the Building of the Regional Court at 14 Raunas Street (architect P. Mengelis), and other important buildings.

Cēsis also developed as a health resort. Posh summer houses and health centres were built in the vicinity of the Gauja. 'Cīrulīi' near the Svētavots (Holy Spring) Cave is the most famous of them, with a spring believed to possess healing powers.

Cēsis is still a favourite for tourists and guests who appreciate its calm and peaceful flow of life, so characteristic of a small town.

External link

et:Cēsis eo:Cēsis lv:Cēsis nds:Cesis ru:Цесис

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