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  • Medieval objects and artefacts are to be found in a variety of museums across Latvia. These are either thematic museums, such as the Military Museum and the Riga School Museum, or more often, museums devoted to a particular area or region. The latter are frequently situated in castles and manors and, as part of their medieval collections, present objects related to the castle history, the building of the castle, and artefacts coming from archaeological excavations in the neighbourhood. Castle museums include Jaunpils Castle, Turaida Museum and Natural Reserve, Bauska Castle and Museum, Ventspils Museum and others. Kuldiga Regional Museum is devoted to regional history, and its many of its medieval objects, such as the famous Curonian charters, were donated, while others were obtained in the region in the course of excavations or as accidental finds.
    Certain museums included here do not display medieval collections, but are situated in medieval buildings or include buildings that date the Middle Ages as part of the ensemble: Edole Castle, Cesis Museum Group and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
    There are, of course, many museums that fit into more than one category: the History of Latvia Museum, situated in a modern building in the heart of Riga, also has a branch housed in a reconstructed lake hillfort, Āraiši Lake Castle. The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation is both thematic and regional.
    Only two Latvian museums are devoted entirely to the medieval period: the Tervete History Museum in a reconstructed hillfort, which is a private museum, and Āraiši Lake Castle, branch of the national History of Latvia Museum.
    The present entry lists first the History of Latvia Museum and the History of Riga and Navigation Museum, which possess the largest medieval collections, then other thematic and regional museums in alphabetic order.

    - Latvijas Nacionālais vēstures muzejs (National History Museum of Latvia)
    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian
    The museum holds important archaeological, ethnographic, numismatic, historical and artistic collections. In the collectons of the department of archeology, noteworthy medieval finds come from the castles of Cēsis, Koknese et Ikšķile and the cemeteries of Martinsala and Dobele. The museum also preserves numerous documents and reports of archaeological excavations. The department of numismatics houses a collection of medieval coins. The exhibition on medieval history presented by the department of history includes parchment documents and wooden ecclesiastical sculptures.
    The permanent exhibition at the museum charts the history of people on the territory of Latvia from the ninth century B.C. to the mid-twentieth century.
    In March 2008 the Museum Park of Āraiši joined the National History Museum of Latvia. The museum is located in the Lake Castle, which consists of reconstructed buildings of the Stone and Bronze Ages, where a settlement of Latgalians in the 9th – 11th century was. There are also ruins of a medieval castle dating back to Livonian time.
    The Museum publishes on a continuous basis. In addition to exhibition catalogues, guides, monographs and research papers, it issues two series : Papers of the National History Museum of Latvia and Latvian Cultural Heritage Held in Foreign Repositories.

    - Rīgas vēstures un kuģniecības muzejs (The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation)
    Languages: German, English, Latvian, Russian
    The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation is the oldest in Latvia and the whole of the Baltics, and one of the oldest in Europe. The Museum is situated in Old Riga, in a remarkable architectural monument constructed from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries – the ensemble of the Riga Dome Cathedral. The Museum collections count more than 500 000 items, systematised in about 80 collections, telling the story of the city and its surroundings from the prehistory to the twentieth century. One of the most important collections is devoted to the material and spiritual culture of the locality in the twelfth century, when the Hanseatic League was established. Likewise, the numismatic collections of the museum are considerable, especially the coins minted in Riga between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries, as well as the coins used in the Baltics at the same period. There are also certain medieval medals and wooden sculptures dated to the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which used to decorate churches and public buildings in the city.
    Two permanent exhibitions are devoted to medieval Riga: the origins of Riga (before 1201) and medieval Riga (1201-1581). One of the highlights of the museum is the sword of Riga’s executor displayed together with an amputated hand of a criminal, both dating to the sixteenth century.
    The museum regularly issues publications.

    - Bauskas pils un muzejs (The Bauska Castle Museum)
    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian
    The Bauska castle complex consists of two parts. The oldest of them – Livonia Order Castle – was built in the middle of the 15th century, but only ruins remain at present, while the newest – residence for the Duke of Kurzeme (Courland) – was built at the end of the 16th century.
    The Bauska Castle represents an example of military architecture in the period from 15th to 17th century. Its oldest part is the only Livonian Order fortress built especially for the use of firearms, but the newest part – a residential castle fortified with bastions, protective walls and earthen ramparts.
    The museum’s basic function is to study and preserve the cultural and historical values of the Bauska Castle as a unique architectural monument of the 15th – 18th century and to use them in the interest of the society and education. The collection of the Bauska Castle Museum includes materials obtained in archaeological excavations, negative photographs, transparencies and photographs containing information about the castle’s architecture and reflecting the respective historical events, paintings, engravings, drawings and plans illustrating the Bauska Castle, furniture, ceramics, art objects and printed materials for the castle’s interior design. The Bauska Castle Museum owns a significant collection of decorative stone forgings originating from the end of the 16th century, extensive and valuable collection of 15th – 18th century stove tiles and a collection of 15th – 18th century coins of Livonia and the Duchy of Courland.
    The museum website includes a publications sections listing academic research on the history of the castle.

    - Cēsu pils (Cēsis Castle)
    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian
    The castle complex is located in the very centre of the city, where a number of different historical areas intertwine. One of the most mysterious monuments of pre-crusader times is Riekstu Hill, an ancient hillfort once inhabited by Vendi tribe – the cradle of present day Cēsis. Right next to Riekstu Hill is located the castle built by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, later managed by the Teutonic order. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important footholds for the Teutonic Order in the Baltics, but nowadays – most impressive and well preserved castle ruins in Latvia. In its turn, the castle manor complex is dominated by the manor house together with May and Castle Park manifests the Romanticism movement of the 18th and 19th century. The complex includes the Exhibition Hall housing modern art.

    - Edoles pils (Edole Castle)
    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian
    The museum is located in the castle built in 1264, which initially was owned by the Bishop of Kurzeme, purchased by Ulrich von Ber in 1561. The castle fortifications are mainly destroyed, and the castle itself was rebuilt and renovated several times. Currently, the castle houses a museum and a hotel in its medieval part. The museum exhibitions focus mainly on modern objects.

    - Jaunpils pils (Jaunpils Castle)
    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian, Lithuanian
    The museum is located in the Castle of Jaunpils, built in 1301 as a stronghold of the Livonian Order. In the fifteenth century, the castle was rebuilt to provide protection against firearms, completed with a round tower and moats. In 1545, the castle was remodelled again as residence of the commander of the Order Evert von Shirren. Purchased in 1575 by Matiass von der Recke, the castle remained the property of the von der Recke family until 1922. Currently, the castle houses a museum with exhibitions highlighting the history of the castle, including the medieval period.

    - Kuldīgas novada muzejs (Kuldīga Regional Museum)
    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian
    The museum preserves the cultural heritage of the town and region of Kuldīga. Its collectons include medieval archaeological objects and documents. In particular, the collection of documents preserves feodal charters and other documents of Curonian Kings, the most famous of the being the so-called Tontegodem, issued in 1320, confirming a grants of 2 arcs of land by Master Gerhard of the Livonian Order.

    - Latvijas Kara muzejs (The Latvian War Museum)

    Powder Tower
    Historical photograph of the Powder Tower, a fourteenth-century construction housing the Latvian War Museum


    Languages: Latvian, English, Russian
    The Latvian War museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in Latvia. The museum is located in the Powder Tower (14th century), one of the former fortification towers of Riga.
    The museum’s aim is to reveal to the public the complex military and political history of Latvia. The largest and most significant part of the museum’s collection consists of objects about the military and political history of Latvia in the 20th century, when Latvia had to fight for its independence twice. Meanwhile, one of the permanent expositions ‘Men of War and Military Art from the 9th to the 16th Century’ is devoted to Latvian military history in the Middle Ages. The exposition shows unique objects from the Latvian War Museum and the National History Museum of Latvia, such as Zemgalian and Kuronian arms, a fifteenth-century canon, etc.
    The museum regularly issues publications.

    - Daugavas muzejs (Museum of the River Daugava)

    Copy of the 9th-Century Oseberg Ship in front of the Museum of Daugava
    The copy of the ninth-century Oseberg Ship was made in 2014-2015 and installed in front of the Museum of Daugava


    Languages: Latvian, English, Russian
    The collection of the Museum is focused on the history of the River Daugava and its nearest surroundings from the time when the first inhabitants appeared in this region in 8 000 BC until the present-day situation.
    The Museum provides information on historical events that took place along the River Daugava as well as on the development of local cultures in this region. In the exhibition devoted to the prehistory of the Daugava valley outstanding archaeological evidence is presented starting from the first human settlement at Salaspils Laukskola archaeological site of the Late-Paleolithic age (ca. 8000 BC) and up to the first mediaeval stone-constructed building complex in the Baltic States, the castle and church built in Ikšķile (Uexkuell) in 1184. The area of population spreading along the river emerged as soon as the first settlements were established connected to trading activities and various crafts. This developments pattern is also exposed by the rich archaeological material excavated at the Daugmale hill fort (1000 BC – 1200 AD) situated near Salaspils. During the Late Iron Age (800 – 1200 AD) the lower reaches of the Daugava was a cross-cultural milieu where impacts of the local ethnies e.g. the Balts, the ancient Livonians and the Scandinavians intersected with the first Christian missionaries coming to this part of the North-Eastern Europe around that time. Later on, the Livonian Confederation was established during the 13th century leading to creation of new towns and settlements near Daugava; the medieval way of life is represented in the exhibition by various household items and arms belonging to this particular epoch up to the Livonian War in 1583.
    The highlights of the medieval collection include the earliest stone buildings in Baltics – Ikšķile castle and church complex – and one of the first baptized burials in Latvia, the burial of a christened Liv woman from Ikšķile.
    The museum is situated in the Dole Manor house that dates to the 17th century and is surrounded by a park laid out in the second half of the 18th century when the Dole Manor belonged to a Baltic-German nobleman Otto Hermann von Vietinghof-Scheel (1722-1792).

    - Rīgas skolu muzejs (The Museum of Riga Schools)
    Languages: French, English, Latvian, Russian, German
    The museum tells the history of schools in Riga from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. In particular, one exhibition shows a medieval class of the Riga Dome Cathedral School, which the oldest school in the Baltic region, which has celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2011. The museum also preserves historical photographs of medieval documents and charters relating the history of Latvia and stored in foreign archives.

    - Tērvetes vēstures muzejs (Tērvete Museum of History)
    Language: Latvian
    The museum is housed in a reconstruction of the twelfth-century native fortress, built with references to archaeological findings. The original fortress, which once stood on the same spot, played an important role in the history of the crusades. The objectives of the reconstruction were to ensure efficient work of the museum, to initiate a renewal of traditions, to provide a place for annual festivals and, finally, to show the public an example of the military fortifications in Tērvete. In the long term, the project aims a complete reconstruction of Tērvete and a detailed exhibitions of the local history and the material culture of the Zemgalians.

    - Turaidas muzejrezervāta (Turaida Museum Reserve)

    Turaida Castle Museum and Reserve
    Turaida Castle Museum and Reserve


    Languages: English, Latvian, Russian
    Downloadable booklets in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish and Finish
    The Museum Reserve consists of the territory of 42.25 ha, assembling archaeological, architectural, historical and artistic monuments belonging to different ages and contexts: a hillfort with the foundations of a wooden castle, a medieval stone castle, a church, a cemetery, the buildings of a baronial estate, the centre of a kolkhoz, a park, a system of ponds, green areas, roads, paths and routes. The ensemble is dominated by the thirteenth-century restored brick castle. Outside, the castle museum offers a permanent exhibition telling the story of its construction and architecture, while inside, there are permanent exhibitions displaying its collections, mainly archaeological objects dating from the eleventh century. In 2014, the medieval collection was enriched by the objects, dating from the ninth to the thirteenth century, discovered during the 2013 archaeological excavations at Jaņkalns.
    The museum issues publications.

    - Ventspils muzejs (Ventspils Museum)
    Languages: English, Latvian
    The museum consists of three entities: the Castle of the Livonian Order, the Seaside Open Air Museum and H. Dorbe Memorial Museum. The medieval collections are exhibited in the Castle of the Livonian Order, built in the second half of the 13th century (first mentioned in 1290). The castle was built as a convent-house type building with an inner yard, and can be regarded as the oldest medieval fortress in Latvia to have retained its original form virtually unchanged. In its turn, the castle chapel is the oldest preserved church building in the region of Curonia (Kurzeme, the western area of Latvia which used to be a powerful Duchy). The permanent exhibitions highlight archaeological collections of objects discovered in Ventspils or in the region and covering the material culture of the inhabitants from the Prehistory to the end of the Middle Ages.
    The museum issues publications.

    Anastasija ROPA, 10 November 2017 | 20 September 2016
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