The site

Lielstraupe Castle Complex is an outstanding historical and cultural monument on account to its scenic features. It is one of the rare medieval castles still standing in Latvia, surviving through various wars and regime changes over 800 years. It is the only castle in Latvia which includes a church, and despite undergoing significant interventions following a catastrophic fire in 1905 as well as to having served as a hospital for more than half a century, the castle still retains most of its original substance and appearance from three hundred years ago.

Lielstraupe Castle Complex is located in the Cesis Region of Latvia, in the small village of Straupe. Straupe is often described as "a small village with a great history,” because Straupe, formerly named Roop, which has today only a few hundred inhabitants, had been over centuries a city with municipal law and had been till 17th century a member of the Hanseatic League.

The castle is located next to an active road of international importance, what contributes to its inclusion in touristic concepts and makes it one of the most well-known medieval monuments in Latvia.

Lielstraupe Castle was built for and used – with some small interruptions – by the Rosen Family for almost eight centuries and has played since an important role in the local community. An integral part of the castle’s complex is the church, built by crusader knights around the same time as the fortified castle. The castle, together with the church, form an ensemble, which is included – as well as the territory of the ancient city Straupe – on the list of architectural monuments of national importance.

After 1939, Lielstraupe Castle became the property of the Latvian state and was used for various purposes such as a military hospital and later the administration building of the machine and tractor station. For the last almost 55 years the castle was used to house a state-owned psychoneurological and later narcological hospital. These operations ceased in December 2017, and the management of the castle was transferred to the local municipality. After a several years lasting process, in spring of 2023 the Cesis Municipality will become the owner of Lielstraupe Castle as well as of several buildings in the direct neighbourhood which had been historically part of the economic entity of Lielstraupe Castle.  

The castle remains at the moment only partially usable. After decades of disrepair and continuous use there are several damaged walls, ceilings, and floors, about 15 rooms are forbidden by the State Construction Inspectorate for visiting. The roof covering is in some places in a state of disrepair with severe leakage and damages to the roof structure. The structure of the building, the thick walls and cracked window frames impair heating efficiency. 

Thus, one of the current priorities is to continue urgent rescue interventions at the castle’s foundation, roof structures, roofing and ceilings. The other priority is to develop a long-term concept for conservation and revitalisation of the castle and the territory of the ancient city of Straupe. 

The local community has positive enthusiasm for the conservation and revitalisation of Lielstraupe Castle and understands it as a pillar to the community. It is said by locals with full confidence: Lielstraupe Castle is our identity, our roots, our sorrows, and a symbol of our hopes and dreams.


The training course

The European Heritage Training Course aims at the architectural documentation of Lielstraupe Castle and the elaboration of recommendations for further interventions.

The training course takes place in a moment which is crucial for the further development of the castle and its surroundings. Since the 1960’s till then end of the year 2017 the complex had been used as hospital and was not accessible for the public. Nevertheless, the local community had maintained a close link to the castle, not only because it stands at the centre of the village, but also because the majority of employees of the hospital were also citizens of Straupe and other villages in the surroundings or had moved there.

From 2018 to 2022 there was a kind of intermediate period – the municipality overtook the management of the castle but was not the actual owner yet. In 2022, the Latvian Parliament adopted a special law only concerning Lielstraupe Castle Complex – underlining the importance of Lielstraupe Castle for the history and the identity of Latvia – which led to the situation that Cesis Municipality will become in 2023 the owner of the complex. In result, the municipality will have the burden to rescue, conserve and maintain the complex and to finance all needed measures, but on the other hand this situation opens comprehensive perspectives to develop the ensemble based on the interests, the needs and the preferences of the local community.    

Also, from the heritage-related perspective the situation is auspicious: The complex bears traces dating back to eight different centuries and countless stratigraphic layers which give testimony of the ever-changing but continuous history of the site. The foundations, cellars and the walls of the tower are amongst the oldest built heritage remains in Latvia. The structural changes which were undertaken over the centuries never encompassed the whole complex but did mostly add new structures and new layers to the already existing ones so that they can be found till today below younger layers. The reconstruction of the main wing which took place in 1909 after the fire in 1905 is an extraordinary example of early heritage-related approach trying to follow based on historic plans, photographs and other sources as much as possible the former structure and appearance, on the same time avoiding recreating in a wrongly understood “Romantic” approach parts and details for which such testimonies did not exist. Finally, even during the long period when the complex was used as a hospital, the original substance endured less damages than it could be expected: often, only additional ceiling had been hanged under the original ones to reduce the height of the rooms, the original walls were covered by new surfaces, a new layer was added on the old floors – but the original substance often remained beneath.          

This complexity of building structures and layers creates a not easy situation: In the whole complex there are countless types of plasters, decorations and stucco elements, countless types of floors, of windows and doors. Staircases are leading unexpectedly to other levels or are ending abruptly; openings connect rooms which had not been connected historically, and on the other hand former openings are now closed. Changes of walls and other structures undertaken during the use as hospital make the situation more complicated; but also, the temporary inaccessibility of parts of the complex and the recently undertaken urgent repairs increase the complexity.

In this situation a clear heritage-related concept is needed which can provide the frame for further interventions. Due to financial limitations, interventions will be undertaken step by step, but they should follow an overall, holistic concept for the whole complex. 

Currently, various research, documentation and concepts exist, but since they had been produced in different years, with different focuses and with limited budget and time, they have more punctual character and do not form a complete, holistic documentation.

Therefore, during the European Heritage Training Course a complete inventory shall be facilitated which will – using the existing partial inventory – dedicate attention to various elements as plasters, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, staircases, and others. In result, a chronology of the particular historic stages of the complex and a taxonomy will be established.

In a second step, the substance will be valorised taking in account aspects such as chronology, identity, authenticity, original substance, technical value and others. In result, conservation recommendations will be elaborated concerning particular rooms or series of rooms which stand representative for a particular period of the building.

Finally, overall conservation recommendations for the whole complex will be proposed.

The European Heritage Training Course will be led by two conservation architects with long-year experience in the field – a professor teaching heritage conservation at the Polytechnical University of Valencia and member of European Heritage Volunteers Network.

The process will be undertaken in close collaboration with Cesis Municipality as the owner of the site, with the local community and the local and regional network of friends of Lielstraupe Castle Complex. The active involvement of the local community corresponds with the results of a recent survey where 84 % of the inhabitants wished to develop the castle complex as “a meeting place for people interested in history, art, music, especially medieval, in a study and surviving of tangible and intangible cultural heritage”.

The educational programme of the European Heritage Training Course will be completed by various lectures, presentations and guided tours about the castle and the village Straupe and a whole-day excursion to various heritage sites in the region. On August 26th, the last day of the training course, the traditional Lielstraupe Castle Festival will take place which will enable the participants to experience local food, listen music from the region and familiarise with  of local and regional activists, but also provide an opportunity for the participants to present the – preliminary – results of the training course to a wider public.  


The training course will take place from August 14th to August 27th, 2023, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the Polytechnic University of Valencia / Spain and Cesis Municipality.




European Heritage Volunteers