The mystery of the Castle Beverina

Thanks to the enormous efforts of Latvian archaeologists we know the exact locations of various early Latvian castles. But despite of that there is one mysterious place which is only noted in German chronicles, but no one has ever yet found the location of this castle. In the area of possible location there are many possible sites, where locals fiercely defend their rights of the righteous castle location. The academics also put themselves in a complicated discussion of the real location. The question- “Where’s Beverina?” is one of the unsolved mysteries of the Latvian history.

When Crusaders gained full control of the Daugava waterway, they needed the second vital waterway of the river Gauja. The river Gauja never leaves the Latvian present territory, but it serves as an important path to such Russian centers as Novgorod and Pleskau. The Crusaders started their way to Gauja by attacking and enslaving local Livonians. There was an important role for Livonian ruler Kaupo who helped to conquer his own people, but there is more detailed post needed about this controversial person. During the 1206-1212 the Crusaders established their lands across Daugava.  In  1210 the Crusaders started to build the castle of Cesis, the future residence of the Order. In  1212 a bitter conflict between Latgalians of Autīne and Crusaders took place. Local Livonians joined the resistance. This was the final time when Livonians understood completely that the Order wants their land and their freedom. The uprising ended when Crusaders lead by Crusader Albert captured the castle Satesele. The next victims of the Crusaders were lands of Metsepole and Idumeja also Imera.

Next there was a legendary land of Tālava– Latgalian ruled by Tālivaldis and his sons. According to historian E. Mugurēvičš Tālava was located in the district of Trikāta. Chronicle of Henry describes that Talvavians were either Pagans or Orthodox Christians.  The residence of Tālivaldis is called Beverīna according to Chronicler Henry (de Beverin). The name of the castle was mentioned 16 times in the Chronicle, but newer given clear location of it. It was probably in the district of Trikāta because it is stated that in  1208 Estonians attacked and sieged the Beverina castle located at Trikāta district. The citation to find Beverina castle is such: “Estonians retreated from the castle of Cesis, crossed Gauja and took an night rest by the lake which is located near the road of Beverina, but brothers of Cesis [the Crusaders] and Kaupo with Livonians and Latgalians chased them at morning and halted at the same lake to take breakfast and send the scouts and guards forward, some of then returned and informed that Estonians was running away across Imera”.  The Cesis is located at the left bank of Gauja than this means that Beverina road and the castle must be located at the right side of the river Gauja.

What was the lake where Estonians took night rest and the Crusaders took breakfast? And where the road of Beverina was leading? The two largest lakes at this location is lake of Vaidava and Burtnieks. Near lake Vaidava there are two known foothills- the hill of Vaidava and Cimpēnu hill. The Beverina could be located on those hills, but they never were researched by archaeologists to give a clear answer. In a recent publication done by historian Andrejs Lucāns the both hills are not considered as sites of Beverina. Chronicle states that Tālivaldis was baptized into Christianity. And the Chronicler Henry who was a priest, took his part of holy duty at Imera, therefore he mentions Beverina so many times. He praises Tālivaldis for his baptizing and tells how Tālivaldis died: “the Estonians baked Tālivaldis like fish until he passed out and died”. The Estonians killed him at the castle of Trikāta, when he was an old man. In his older years he no longer spent days in castle of Beverina, but with his sons at Trikāta. The historian Indriķis Šterns states that Beverina was not a large castle with large walls. It was only because the Chronicler Henry whose church at Rubene was so close to Beverina, the castle became so important.

But he did not give a clear answer where his beloved baptized king’s residence was exactly located. The Beverina was raised to the ground at year 1216. The name slowly disappeared from people’s memory until at late 19 century and beginning of the 20th century when poet Auseklis restored the myth of Beverina and composer Jāzeps Vītols made the song of the same name.  This started the academic search for Beverina. In year 2008 the historian Andrejs Lucāns made his version that Beverina was located at the city of Valmiera. In year 2009 the new administrative reform made the district of Beverina located near Valmiera. The nearby districts were dissatisfied with this claiming that three joined parishes of Kauguri, Brenguļi does not have any right to be called under Beverina’s name. This shows how unclear legends and statements and various versions becomes a reality. Surely no Latvian historian has not found out the real location of Beverina yet. We can thank the poet Auseklis for his poem “The melodist of Beverina” (1876) for giving the lost castle Beverina in light of knowledge once again.

The location of the present day Beverina district where Beverina could once stood.

Selected Sources:

Šterns,Indriķis. (2002) Latvijas vēsture, 1180-1290: krustakari. Riga: Latvijas vēstures instūta apgāds.

Lucāns, Andrejs. (2008) Ceļš uz Beverīnas pils indentifikāciju. In journal Latvijas Vēsture. Jaunie un Jaunākie Laiki. Nr. 4 (72)



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