Ordensburg Keikael (Keila)

An ordensburg is much the same as a bischofsburg, just for the Order and not a Bishop. The Order in this case is the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order who took Keila over when the old owners decided they had enough and could sell the place. The Order was quite appreciative of this, and Keila’s importance grew considerably with this place becoming one of the most important castles near Tallinn (Reval) where a lot of the logistics was determined, also evidenced by the Order’s Komtur (Commander) of Tallinn living here.

Despite the above, Keila never achieved a massive size and was only discovered relatively lately with archaeological excavations in the 1970’s being the first to confirm this structure. Nevertheless, even now the entire scope of the place has not been excavated with the latest fortifications we know about being part of the structure we cannot see. The small size of this place — resultant of its origins as a manor — is also illustrated on the below image, which though lacking a scale, is sufficient to illustrate that this was not the castle of castles.

‘ An overview capturing the ruined state of this castle

Nevertheless, the history of the ordensburg is varied and worth considering, for it is representative of the region in general. The first dynasty we know about here were the Kegels who sold the property after 73 recorded years of ownership in 1385 (though the place was not fortified for all of this time). For an undocumented reason, the Kegels figured that Courland would be a better place to live, and that’s where they moved. The Kalles, a prominent local family whose scions guided the fortification of Tallinn (Reval) and were the Bishops of Tallinn had ownership of the property from the above time until 1433 when Arndt Kalle sold it to the Livonian Branch of the Teutonic Order. For those interested in conversions, the price of the fortified manor was 16 000 Rigan marks.

The Livonian Order favoured the location, as mentioned above. The fortifications they built also look as if the Order was aware of the danger firearms posed with a round tower they constructed exhibiting the typically thicker walls of the type favoured in the 15th and 16th centuries. Much like the rest of the Order, the castle came into danger in the Livonian War with it potentially burned during a Muscovite attack in 1560. Unlike some other properties, however, the Order was quite fast to give it up to requite some much needed money for the war and Master Willem von Fürstenberg pawned the place to the City of Tallinn. The city was relatively happy, in its place, to pass the area to Sweden after itself as well as the majority of the feudal lords in the area swore fealty to its King.

The Swedes seem to have reconstructed the castle as it is still mentioned in texts in 1599, but beyond that we know little. Darkness takes sway over the story of the place; the restored portal, however, remains open…

The inviting doors…

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