Tarwast Castle

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Tarwast Castle
Remnants of the walls of the Dansker

Remnants of the walls of the Dansker

Creation time : around 1500
Castle type : Hilltop castle
Conservation status: ruin
Place: Tarvastu
Geographical location 58 ° 14 '8 "  N , 25 ° 54' 5"  E Coordinates: 58 ° 14 '8 "  N , 25 ° 54' 5"  E
Tarwast Castle (Estonia)
Tarwast Castle

The ruins of Tarwast Castle are located in the rural community of Tarvastu ( German  Tarwast or Tarvast ) in the Estonian district of Viljandi ( German  Fellin ).


The castle Tarwast was probably built in the 14th century on the foundations of an ancient Estonian hill fortification, which was surrounded by water. It was of a mixed nature - a combination of a castle and a bulwark connected to nature . Since there was a water mill on the north side, Tarwast was considered an economically important castle. The importance of the watermill is emphasized by a well-fortified defense tower ( Dansker ) with walls 14 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick. In 1329 the castle was attacked by the troops of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas . Since then, the Livonian Order has been working to improve the fortification of the complex. From 1410 the Grand Master of the Order often stayed in the castle. For this reason, the rooms were equipped with vaults and the walls were raised. The wall that still exists consists of large, uncut rubble stones arranged horizontally.

Wall remains in the entrance to the main castle

Towards the end of the 15th century the area around Tarwast was exposed to frequent raids by the Russians . In 1481 they conquered Tarwast Castle. According to Russian reports, those who hid in the woods died of cold and hunger. Some of the residents were taken to Russia as prisoners.

Until 1582 the area around Tarwast remained under Russian control together with the former Dorpater diocese . After the conquest by the Poles in 1582, Tarwast soon became an independent military administrative unit, a so-called Starost District. At the beginning of 1588, the Starost area of ​​Tarwast was placed under the sovereignty of the Colonel of the Star East District Karksi , Jürgen von Fahrensbach .

A powder explosion at the end of the 16th century turned the castle into ruins.


Hereditary funeral and Tarwast estate

Mausoleum / chapel in the forecourt of the castle
Suspension bridge in Fellin

The Lords of Tarwast, the von Mensenkampff family , designated the forecourt of the castle for their family funeral and built a chapel there in 1825 . The classical building has a high pyramid-shaped roof and a portico decorated with columns . In 2001 the chapel was restored by order of the national monument authority .

The Tarwast mansion is across the river. It was connected to the hereditary burial by a suspension bridge. This was dismantled in 1931 and rebuilt in the castle hills of Fellin.

Some of the outbuildings of the estate are still standing today: distillery- ox barn, warehouse-drying, administrator's house, cellar, coach house , stable, dairy and workers' houses. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1905. After the estates were nationalized in the 1920s, the settlers who had received land carried away the remains of the manor house and used them as building material for their own buildings.


The ruins of the 19th century watermill are on the edge of the mill dam leading to the forecourt of Tarwast Castle.

Schnapps production

The Tarwast estate was known, among other things, for the production of schnapps , which was transported to Riga on horses in winter . The farmers were smart and didn't like standing around the alcohol barrels freezing. Because of this, they lifted the barrel hoops and drilled holes underneath, from which they sipped a decent sip of firewater. The hole was then closed with a wooden plug and the barrel hoop was pushed back into its original place. The offense was not visible from the outside; older barrels, however, resembled the back of a hedgehog on the inside.


A legend tells of a dark-eyed Polish beauty who made a fool of the young men serving in the castle. The last of the suitors spurned by her could not contain his anger and strangled the girl. To cover up the murder, he threw his victim into the moat , where it was later found. The girl's father, the captain of the castle, took out his grief on his subordinates. Two soldiers decided to flee the punishment and to cover up their escape by detonating the castle's powder stores beforehand. The refugees were later caught; however, the ghost of the murdered girl still dwells within the walls of the castle.