History

Kuldīga, the ancient town of Courland (Kurzeme), is situated on both banks of the river Venta. This used to be the centre of the former territory of the Cours, Bandava. Veckuldīga castle mound, which stands near the present town on the left bank of the river Venta, was the biggest castle mound of the Cours. In the 9th century a settlement was formed near it. In the first part of the 13th century the territory of the Cours was invaded by German knights. The Couronian castle was burnt down but the settlement still remained there for some time.

To consolidate their military power the knights started to build stone castles. One of them was built on the banks of the river Venta opposite the waterfall. They started building it in 1242 – it was the year when Kuldīga was first mentioned in official documents. In the 14th century the town had already been formed next to the castle. In 1368 Kuldīga became a member of the Hanseatic League. From 1596 to1616 Kuldīga was the capital of the Duchy of Courland. During the Duke Jacob’s reign (1642.-1682.) the Duchy of Courland and Kuldīga experienced its boom. During the Great Northern War in 1702 the Swedish army plundered and destroyed the castle so badly that it became uninhabitable.

The ancient Castle Mill (13th century) located near the bridge across the river Venta was built next to the highest natural threshold in Latvia – the Alekšupīte Waterfall (4.2 m). The ancient town developed near the Alekšupīte river.

While walking along the streets of Kuldīga, a visitor might notice several church towers rising above the ancient tile roofs. St. Catherine’s Church (1252) is the oldest church in Kuldīga. A metal medallion with an image featuring St.Catherine can be seen above the side (court) door of the church. It is also the emblem of the town because Catherine is a patroness of Kuldīga. She is holding a wheelin the right hand and a sword (which is a symbol of power) in her left hand.

In Kuldīga every visitor might find familiar traits characteristic also to other historic European cities. Such sites and buildings include Duke’s pharmacy (Baznīcas iela), the former Kuldīga burgomaster Stefenhāgens’ house, the Town Hall square with the former town hall building and the building of the present Town Hall. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the town walking along the charming streets and looking at ancient buildings with unique doors and transoms.

IMPORTANT DATES IN THE HISTORY OF KULDĪGA

  • 1242 Kuldīga was first mentioned in the documents.
  • 1355 The coat of arms featuring St.Catherine was established. It hasn’t been altered since then.
  • 1368 Kuldīga became a member of the Hanseatic League. Through Hansaetic routes Kuldīga exported eel, lamprey, salmon and other fish caught in the Venta river, and traded crops, leather, linen and timber.
  • 1596 Kuldīga became one of the main residencies of the duke of Courland (Kurzeme). From 1596 to 1616 it was the capital of Kurzeme Duchy.
  • 1610 Jacob Kettler (better known as Duke Jacob) was born in Kuldīga. Under his rule the Kurzeme Duchy was brought to its greatest peak in wealth and even engaged in colonization. He is remembered as a fair ruler who also knew Latvian and was well disposed towards the local peasants.
  • 1615 The old bridge across the Venta was destroyed by floods and a fire caused serious damage to town’s wooden buildings. Special fishing devices called “tači” were installed on the Venta waterfall, catching up to 100 salmon per day which later were transported to Jelgava to be used in the Duke Jacob’s court. This method of fishing was used until 1930’s when it was banned.
  • 1750 – Kuldīga castle was demolished and the stones from its ruins were used to build new houses for local inhabitants.
  • 1874 The famous Kuldīga brick bridge was built. To this day it is the third longest brick bridge in Europe!
  • 1878 – The factory ‘‘Vulkāns’’ producing matches was established. Many other small manufacturing enterprises opened up and some of them would grew into factories employing more than 100 people. Kuldīga produced goods of great diversity: needles, cigars, soap, vodka, liqueur and even mineral water.
  • 1980 The union of Hansa cities was reestablished. It was called the Hanseatic League of New Times (also known as the New Hansa). Kuldīga has been a regular participant of Hansa Days – an annual international festival of its member cities – since 1994.
  • 2007 Kuldīga received an internationally recognized title “European Destination of Excellence”.
  • 2008 The old town of Kuldīga received the European Heritage Label as one of the most unique 17th - 18th century wooden architecture ensembles in Latvia.
  • 2009/2010 The old brick bridge over the Venta underwent renovation.
  • 2013 Kuldīga Restoration Centre received the EU prize for cultural heritage – ‘’Europa Nostra’’.

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