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Castles of Estonia

Photo Focus: Rõngu Vassal Stronghold

by Peter Kessler & Kersti Hansen, 28 May 2022

 

Rõngu Vassal Stronghold, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

Rõngu Vassal Stronghold lies at Salusilla-Piiroja tee L3, Lossimäe küla, Elva vald, in Tartumaa, close to the town of Rõngu.

Construction of this castle-type stronghold is believed to have been completed around 1340, although a date for the start of that work is not available. It probably took no more than a year or two to complete, however.

Rõngu Vassal Stronghold, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

The stronghold was built to protect the south-western region of the Tartu bishopric. It sits at the south-eastern corner of the large lake almost in the centre of Estonia which is known as Võrtsjärv.

Initially the stronghold was owned by the Tödwen family, one of many Baltic-German families who were controlling parts of Livonia. An outer ward was later added, but almost nothing is known about it (records regarding castle-building in what was then German-occupied Livonia are extremely unreliable and fragmentary).

Rõngu Vassal Stronghold, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

The gate was also supplemented by a special projecting gatehouse, which housed on its second floor the chapel of the Holy Cross (as mentioned in 1413).

During the Livonian Wars the forces of the Livonian Order pillaged the stronghold, in 1558. It may have lain abandoned for a while before it passed into the hands of the Jesuits in 1583, who turned it into their main centre in southern Estonia. The commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania had taken control of Livonia in 1561 so, being staunch Catholics, they would have allowed the Jesuits to settle.

Rõngu Vassal Stronghold, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

It was the Jesuits themselves who blew up the stronghold, in protest against the establishment of Swedish control over the region in 1625. As firm Protestants, the Swedish would not have allowed the Jesuits to remain anyway.

Rõngu Vassal Stronghold, by Kersti Hansen
Photo © Kersti Hansen

Even so, a twenty-five metre-long section of the main wall and the main entrance have survived into the present day. The rest has not survived, although some foundation work below ground can still be detected. The ruins have not especially been conserved, but the 'roof' capping on top of the walls and tower remnant will stave off the worst of the winter snows.

The castle hill is surrounded by a twelve-hectare park which contains majestic oaks, larch, and other well-established trees.

 

All photos kindly contributed by Kersti Hansen, taken in May 2022.

Main Sources

Visit Estonia

Spotting History

Other Sources

Guide to Castles in Estonia (Eestimaa linnuste teejuht), Compiled by Mart Helme (Kunst, 2003)

 

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