Bischofsburg Ringen (Rõngu)

Rõngu is a small place in Southern Estonia, much like that of Rannu a bit to its north. The one exception, and it is a relevant one, is that the ruins here are situated in a public park (gifted to the local community by one of the Baltic German nobles) — and there is also something here to see. This last bit is potentially the most striking of differences, and though the ruins are not extensive, they are interesting.

The ruins remnant

The original castle was built in the 14th century with the purpose of protecting the Bishopric of Dorpat’s south west. To consider the castle, one of its more noticeable properties is the fairly common use of red brick — though the same is the case at Tartu’s former cathedral, in general the Northern Livonian and Estonian castles were built of stone. This could potentially indicate more prevalent Prussian influence, as the red brick castles are quite iconic to those lands though local stone was used for the groundwork (also seen in the presently extant ruins).

The castle was made up of an inner and an outer keep, the outer keep being a later extension to the original plans. The surviving walls were part of the main hall, and are quite interesting to observe — the main gate is part of this structure as well.

The castle’s glorious period involved about two centuries with a marked decline in the Livonian War where it was severely damaged. Gotthard Kettler, the last Grand Master of the Livonian Order, was part of this event as he led the Order troops in a counterattack in 1558. He was wounded in a later action, and the troops struggled to continue with a similar momentum and it was also under Kettler that the Order surrendered to Poland.

This led to an influx of Jesuits to the former Bishopric, and one of the places they chose as their centre was the former castle of Rõngu. In 1625, barely more than four decades later, the ruling power was meant to change again, and this time from the Catholic Commonwealth to the Lutheran Sweden — a Sweden which was decidedly not keen on leaving property in the hands of the Jesuits. Hence, before handing the castle over, it was burnt down though parts of it may have survived.

The later years saw further degradation and damage with the final nail in the coffin being the actions in the Great Northern War. The local populace benefited, however, as the crumbled stones and bricks were good building material for their own purposes. Sic transit gloria mundi…

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