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Castles of Estonia

Photo Focus: Kiltsi Manor

by Peter Kessler, 4 August 2012. Updated 7 November 2021

 

Kiltsi Manor in Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia
Photo © P L Kessler

Kiltsi Manor (Kiltsi mõis in Estonian) is located in Lääne-Viru County (Lääne-Virumaa) in north-eastern Estonia. It lies close to the town of Väike-Maarja in the south of the county.

A vassal fortification was built here in the thirteenth century, shortly after the Danish conquest of North Estonia had been completed. The conquered territory was formed into a duchy, while southern and central Estonia were conquered by German crusaders to be subsumed into the newly-created German state of Livonia.

Following occupation as a fortress, and then as a manor house, the building at Kiltsi fell into decay in the twentieth century. Full rebuilding and refurbishment started in 2007.

Kiltsi Manor in Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia
Photo © P L Kessler

The original thirteenth century fortress was rebuilt in the 1300s or 1400s, enhancing its defensive capabilities. This was probably carried out after the Livonian Knights had taken charge of North Estonia in 1346.

The fortress was destroyed during the Livonian Wars, triggered following an invasion in 1588 by the Russians. The war also destroyed the Livonian Knights and Germanic rule of the Baltics as the Russians, Lithuanian-Poles, and Swedes all fought for a share of the former medieval German states.

Kiltsi Manor in Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia
Photo © P L Kessler

The manor house was completed in 1790 on top of the old ruins. Although relatively small, its long list of owners is an excursion through the Baltic-German nobility: von Gilsens, Uexkülls, Zoegas, Manteuffels, Rosens, von Benckendorffs, and von Krusensterns (in the 1800s).

Kiltsi Manor in Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia
Photo © P L Kessler

From 1801 the manor was home to the Baltic German knight, Adam Johann von Krusenstern (1770-1846). He became an admiral in the Russian navy and led its first circumnavigation of the globe in 1803-1806. He compiled his Atlas of the Southern Seas in the manor's west tower.

Kiltsi Manor in Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia
Photo © P L Kessler

During the 1900s, most of the manor fell into decay and ruin. By 2000, only a third of it remained, mostly being used as school buildings since the 1920s. The local municipality never had the means to restore the often exquisite interiors or even the façades.

Kiltsi Manor in Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia
Photo © P L Kessler

The refurbishment of the buildings which in 2007 were housing Kiltsi Manor Elementary School was made possible by a grant from Norway towards the cost of the €1.36 million project. After being derelict for almost a century, Kiltsi Manor could at last be renovated and restored.

 

All photos kindly contributed by P L Kessler, taken in May 2006.

Main Sources

Praust, Valdo - Most Beautiful Manors and Castles, Grenader Grupp, Estonia, 2004

Online Sources

Photos of Estonia - Otto de Voogd

Sightseeing in Estonia - County of Lääne-Virumaa

EEA Grants

Estonian Manors

 

Images and text copyright © P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.