Laiuse Castle (Laiuse Ordulinnus)

Laiuse Castle

Location: Jõgeva County, Jõgeva Parish   Map

Constructed: 14th century by the Livonian Order

Laius Order Fortress (Ordensburg Lais or simply Burg Lais in German) was a fortress built by the Livonian Order on the territory of the current Laiusevälja village (formerly Mõisaküla village).

Although the oldest reports of the castle date back to the beginning of the 15th century, the order's castle was probably built at the beginning of the 14th century.

During the Livonian War and the Swedish-Polish War, the castle was besieged several times. Part of the fortress was destroyed in the 1620s and the rest largely between 1702 and 1704. After the Northern War, the fort fell into disuse and its dilapidated parts were used as a quarry. The castle remains a ruin to this day.

The ruins of the Laius fortress with the moat are considered a building monument.


History of Laiuse Castle

Laius Castle was probably built at the beginning of the 14th century as a house castle or as an extended tower castle. Soon, a low circular wall fort was also built, which was built on a foundation with moats. The oldest reports about the Laius fortress date back to 1406, in 1416 and 1417 the "Count of the Laius fortress" is mentioned, and in 1423 large-scale construction works carried out under the initiative of the master of the order Siegfried Lander von Sponheim, during which the castle's ring wall was expanded and thickened and the fortress was equipped in the northwest, northeast and southeast corners with round turrets adapted to firearms.

The Laius Order Castle, located in the northeastern part of the Order, represented a roadblock fort on an important road. The road that passed through the Laius area connected the Tartu–Jõhvi and Tallinn–Tartu highways, and along this road you could get to the eastern part of Virumaa and from there to Russia. The extensive reconstruction work undertaken in the first half of the 15th century was largely due to the worsening relations between the order and the diocese of Tartu. The latter's activated construction activity in the fortresses was clearly directed primarily against the Order. Also at the beginning of the 14th century, when the original plan was probably built, there was a great civil war in Livonia.

According to the administrative division at the time of the Order, the Laius fortress remained in the Viljandi command district and served as an auxiliary fortress of the Kursi fortress.

In the Middle Ages, a small settlement arose next to the castle and possibly even inside the fore-castle.

From 1520 to 1546, Otmar von Galen was mentioned as the fortress chief of Laius.


The Livonian war

On January 24, 1558, Moscow troops invaded Tartu diocese near Vastseliina and the Livonian War broke out. Part of the Russian troops passed Tartu and reached the Laius region on January 30. After looting and burning there, they arrived under the fortress and burned down the stables and other buildings. The fortress was fiercely defended, as a result of which the Moscow forces suffered heavy losses. The commander of the castle, Frederick de Grave, was seriously wounded, and according to the chronicler Johann Renner (died 1583), 400 peasants were killed, 250 of whom were children. On February 2, the Russians left for the Kärkna region. Wilhelm von Fürstenberg (died 1568), who had arrived in Tartu diocese from Viljandi and learned that the enemy had gone to Laius, followed the Moscow troops.

In August 1558, the Russians again besieged the fortress of Laius, which was defended by only 34 men under the command of Frederick de Grave. After repeated demands from Prince Pyotr Ivanovich Shuisky (died 1564) and Pavel Petrovich Zabolotsky, the garrison surrendered on August 5 and handed over the fortress. They were allowed to leave the fortress each with their possessions, and Grave decided to head to Viljandi with his force. But when they had come within two miles of the fort, they were attacked by another detachment of Russians, the Russians being assisted by the peasants, who were at enmity with Grave on account of his strictness. Five Germans were killed in the clash, the rest were captured and only a few managed to escape. The prisoners, among whom Grave was seriously wounded, were taken to Tartu and their wagons were looted. Šuiski appointed Peter Gollowitz as the chief of Laius fortress (Ivar Leimus has suggested that the real surname could have been Golovin).

On December 14, 1559, the knights and soldiers of the order, led by the master of the order Gotthard Kettler (died 1587), came from Kärkna to Laius and began to besiege the fortress, which was defended by about 500 men. A Russian detachment of 300 men was on its way from Rakvere towards Laius, but when they were half a mile from the fortress and the news of the siege of the fortress reached them, they went back to Rakverre. The order opened fire on the fort from cannons, and four squadrons of war servants with their commanders stormed the fort. Hans Uthermarcke, the flag bearer, was hit in the back of the head with a stone and fell, but still called on the others to follow him. For his bravery, the master of the order presented him with a velvet suit. The garrison of the castle, however, threw stones at the necks of the attackers from the walls, so the latter were forced to retreat. On December 16, a new storm run was launched, which failed and led to the death of the order's warriors. The Ordu troops continued firing, after which the garrison of the fort wanted to negotiate. Kuldīga's commissar Heinrich Steding was appointed as the negotiator along with several companions. In the course of the negotiations, the Russians wanted to get the right to leave the fortress with their property intact, and Salomon Henning (1528-1589) was sent to the Master of the Order to ask for such a right. However, the commanders of the army advised the master not to provide such protection, as the capture of the fortress would still succeed and cause fear in the Russians. The negotiations broke down, and on December 17, a storm run was organized again. The Russians, however, fired so heavily from the fortress that, according to Renner, 384 soldiers of the order died together with the banners of Franz Straszborch and Plate. Evert Schladoth, chief of the war servants, was also killed. Both of the order's cartridges were muddy and unusable, and they were running low on ammunition. On the night of December 19, the army left for Põltsamaa, which the Russians celebrated with shouts of joy on the walls.

With the Peace of Jam Zapolski concluded in 1582, the Laius region came under Polish-Lithuanian rule. The castle became the center of Laius' star shop.


Period of Polish and Swedish rule

Despite the war, the castle and perhaps part of the town were preserved. In the 1590s, more than 200 people are said to have lived in the town.

In September 1600, Sweden started military operations against Poland and sent its troops to Livonia in two parts. The main force led by Karl himself started the journey from Tallinn and chose a more western route. The force that started moving from Narva was led by Colonel Peder Pedersson Stolpe (died 1601) and Heinrich von Ahnen, and its task was to capture Põltsamaa and Laius fortress. Põltsamaa was conquered by September 11. Ahnen's troops reached Laius at the end of September, and Stolpe's troops a few days later. The Laius garrison was commanded by star Andrzej Orzechowski, who died during the siege, after which the fortress was handed over to Swedish troops. The Poles surrendered on October 20 (in Enn Tarvel's comments to Fabricius' chronicle, it is written that Orzechowski died around October 30, so the date of the surrender of the fortress cannot be earlier) and Stolpe left a garrison of 200 men in the fortress, whose chief was Hans Brakel. The Swedish forces that captured Laius Fortress then joined the main forces of Duke Charles and headed for winter quarters in and around Paide.

In 1602, Laius was conquered again by Polish-Lithuanian forces.

At the end of 1611, the Russians from Pskov invaded Livonia to take revenge for the previous raid by the Poles. In addition to several other places, they plundered the region of Laius, taking a large amount of booty, women, children and Polish nobles to Russia.

1611–1645 (since 1622 in name) Kasper Denhoff (died 1645) was the star of Laius.

On January 5, 1622, during the Swedish-Polish war, Swedish troops under the command of Colonel Henrik Klasson Fleming (1584-1650) captured Laius Fortress. It was probably in the war at that time that the north-east and south-east sides of the castle and the cannon tower located in the south corner were destroyed. Today, nothing has been preserved from the latter apart from the foundation. The fortress settlement was also destroyed in the war.

After the region fell under Swedish rule, the castle was never restored. Swedish mercenaries were placed on its territory, and wooden buildings were built to accommodate them. Of the buildings from the time of the Order, only the fortress chapel was used, which survived at least until 1702.

On September 3, 1623, King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden (1594–1632) leased the Laius castle and manor together with the Jõgeva, Tähkvere and Vaimastvere manors, which together formed the Laius castle fief, to Henrik Klasson Fleming. His son Erik Fleming received the title of freeman of Laius on 12 May 1654.

In 1637, Laius linnuselän consisted of Laius fortress, Sikkona and Ellenbach manor, and Koddisen, Rohikund and Wottigfer vacus.


The Northern War and Karl XII's stay in Laius

After an important victory over the Russian forces in the Battle of Narva during the Northern War, King Karl XII (1682–1718) decided to stay in his winter quarters in Laius Fortress. The Swedish troops reached Laius on December 18, 1700. The State Chancellery was accommodated in Kivijärve manor near Laius, while part of the infantry and artillery were located in the vicinity of Tartu. The cavalry went further into Livonia, stopping around Otepää, Sangaste and Aluliina.

The wooden buildings located in the fort area were arranged to accommodate the staff. The king himself was housed in a more prestigious building on the southeast side of the fortress. Horse stables were located on the southwest side.

In the winter, some smaller campaigns were organized across the Peipsi ice towards Oudova and Petseri. At the beginning of March, an attack and defense of a snow castle was organized on the lands of Jõgeva Manor as an exercise.

Anniversaries were celebrated to entertain. For Christmas, straw was brought to the winter apartment, and on January 27, Karl's name day was celebrated, on which occasion a dozen Estonian girls in wedding dresses, two bagpipe players and a cupbearer who sang in Estonian performed. Karl XII also went to peasant weddings several times, one of which was even held in the castle premises. Hunting trips were also organized.

On April 27, 1701, a relative of Karl, the nephew of his grandfather Karl X Gustav (1622–1660), Duke Adolf Johann II of Kleeburg (1666–1701), died in Laius.

In the middle of May 1701, Karl left Laius in the direction of Kuramaa. The wooden buildings and parts of the fortress that remained intact until now were destroyed in the war of 1702-1704, and only the ruins of the stone walls remained.


After the Northern War

After the Northern War, the fortress ruins were left unused. The simple wooden buildings of the Laius State Manor were built on its north side. In the 18th century, the more decayed parts of the ruins were used as a quarry. At the beginning of the 19th century, when the heritage of the past began to be valued, Laius became a place to go out.

The outer side of the northwest wing, which has generally been preserved to its full height, has withstood time the best. The window openings and the gate opening in it are still there. Most of the walls of the northern round artillery tower have also been preserved. The tow gun tower in the eastern corner and part of the southwest wall of the fort have been partially preserved in their original height.

The ruins of the castle have been arranged and information boards have been put up.

Events are organized in the ruins of the Laius Order Castle - for example, days of the Polish šlahta have been held there, where, among other things, a knight's tournament was performed. A winter snow battle has also been organized in memory of Charles XII, which historically took place in the Jõgeva manor.

The ruins of the Laius Order Fort are entered in the national register of cultural monuments.


Construction story

The oldest part of the Laius order fortress can be considered the house fortress (about 21×12 meters) located in the west corner of the hill on the road side, which was probably built at the beginning of the 14th century. Soon after the construction of the house fort, the fort was expanded to cover the entire hill, resulting in the creation of a trapezoidal camp. The length of the sides of the castle ranges from 60 to 85 meters, and its irregularity was due to the natural shape of the hill. The castle of Laius is peculiar in that the castle walls are built on post foundations, which are joined together by supporting arches (der Schwibbogen). Apparently, the original plan had to be built in a hurry - such a construction technique saved more than 400 m³ of material on the entire wall.

The castle was repeatedly strengthened in the Middle Ages and the walls were built both thicker and higher. The final height of the walls was about 15 meters. In the 15th or early 16th century, three powerful towers were added to the fortress. The construction type evolved into an extended bearing cartridge adapted to firearms.

In the north-west and south-east corners there were artillery towers with a round ground plan, with a diameter of 14 meters, a wall thickness of about 4 meters and a height of about 25 meters. In the northeast corner, a smaller towed gun tower was left, with a diameter of 12 meters, a thickness of 1.5 and a height of more than 15 meters. The western corner of the fortress was protected by a small octagonal cantilever tower, which was similar to the corner tower of the Narva Order Fortress, which has survived to this day, as well as Paide and other fortresses built around 1400. It can be seen from the ruins of the fort that the vaults and exterior of the northwest artillery tower were built of brick, while the rest of the walls were mainly made of field stone and limestone.

The buildings were built on the inside of the western and southern walls of the fortress. On the west side, the buildings probably covered the entire wing, while on the south side, only its southeastern part. The Laius fortress had two gates: the gate in the middle of the northwestern side has been preserved to this day, the other was located in the southern part of the southwestern side and was later walled up. The buildings on the other sides were built of wood - "a la Moskowie", as the Polish Chief of Protocol noted in the 16th century.

The Laius fortress was surrounded by moats, where water was pumped from the Laius stream flowing on the north side of the fortress. The dam and the water mill were located northeast of the fort. Between the castle and the water mill was a fort surrounded by moats, which consisted of palisade barriers and drawbridges over the moats. Probably in the Middle Ages, the road leading to Torma passed through the fort and passed quite close to the northern cannon tower.