It is not known exactly when the Powder Tower was built. The name of the tower itself - Gunpowder, also appeared later. It is possible that the first tower on this site for protection was built in the 13th century. In documents, this place was first mentioned in the 14th century under the name Sand Tower. The modern tower was built at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries and was built to protect against guns. The tower was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The powder tower was never round, but a horseshoe-shaped with an open part facing the city. The entrance to the tower was at a height of 5 meters, and access to the tower was only possible by climbing the stairs.
After the Northern War, the Powder Tower lost its military significance, and the back of the tower was boarded up with boards. The reconstruction of the tower in accordance with the latest requirements took place at the end of the 19th century according to the project of the architect H. Hilbig. A new pointed roof was built near the tower, and the rear of the tower was walled up. The tower experienced the last restructuring after the First World War, when the Military Museum of Latvia was located in the tower. In 1937 - 1939 the museum was expanded by adding a new building to the tower.
Address: Riga, Smilsu iela 20. Website (in Russian).
- from April to October - from 10:00 to 18:00,
- from November to March - from 10:00 to 17:00,
- days off - December 31, January 1, December 24-26.
Admission: free, guided tour - 12 EUR. Prices on the page are for September 2018.
Photo and description
The Powder Tower is the only fragment of the defense system of Riga that has survived to this day. The first written records of this tower are found in the annals of 1330. Especially for the master of the Livonian Order, a hole was made in the fortress wall of Riga with a cannonball through which he entered the conquered city. After the conquest of Riga by members of the order, it was decided to reconstruct and strengthen the city's fortification system. So, according to one version, the famous tower appeared. However, there is another theory that states that the tower was built at the end of the 13th century, that is, before the conquest of Riga by the Order.
According to available archival data, the tower originally had the shape of a horseshoe, and only by the middle of the 14th century found its current, cylindrical shape. The system of fortifications of the city consisted of 28 towers, which at different periods of history were rebuilt and received different names.
In one of the periods, the Sand Tower was also rebuilt, it was turned into a six-story building, and between the upper floors a so-called pantry was designed to catch enemy cores. The master of the Livonian Order was the inspiration for the reconstruction. However, already in 1621 the tower was destroyed as a result of hostilities during the Swedish-Polish war. However, the fortification system was reconstructed, and the tower returned to life again. There is a version that after these military operations she got her current name and began to be called Porokhova. However, again, this is only a theory.
According to the second version, the tower got its name in times of peace, when it was adapted for a warehouse in which gunpowder was stored. However, this version is not convincing. There are also several assumptions regarding the nuclei embedded in the tower wall. One of them says that all these nuclei are an echo of the numerous sieges of the city by Russian troops. And the second theory says that these nuclei appeared only after the reconstruction of the 30s of the 20th century. According to this version, the cores were specially embedded in the walls of the tower by restorers.
During the years of the Russian Empire, the tower turned out to be unclaimed, and by the middle of the 19th century the question arose of eliminating all fortifications, since they limited the city and did not give it the possibility of territorial growth. And already in 1856, a plan for the reconstruction of the city was adopted, according to which all the fortifications were to be demolished. However, this time the Powder Tower was pardoned, however, they did not find a destination and it was empty for another 30 years.
Since 1892, a new round of history begins for the tower. Now it belongs to students who made repairs at their own expense and equipped a beer hall and several dance halls in the tower. Beer is notorious for having nationalistic ideas voiced in it. The name of the tower itself can be connected with the formation of Nazism, because at different times such ideological inspirers of the movement of brown shirts as M.E. Scheibner-Richter and Arno Shikedants appeared in it. The tower performed its new function until 1916. Only with the outbreak of World War I, students were forced to leave their homes.
The tower of the Museum of Latvian Riflemen opens in the tower, and then the Military Museum replaces it. In 1938, the Powder Tower survived another restoration and finally acquired a modern look. However, with the establishment of the USSR regime, changes again took place in the tower, and a naval school named after Nakhimov was opened in it. And in 1957, the museum reopens in the tower, this time the Museum of the October Revolution. In 1991, the authorities changed, and the Military Museum again operates in the tower. This museum operates today, its exposition is rich in a variety of exhibits telling about the history of the country.
Judging by the name, the Riga tower was used to store gunpowder stocks, but modern researchers have expressed great doubts about this. If this were so, during a military invasion, a deplorable fate would await the city. The powder tower of Riga was fired several times, and many cores were fired into it. Until today, it has preserved within its walls three cores on the one hand and nine on the other.
Over a long history, none of the sieges led to sad consequences, since there was nothing to explode inside the tower. Historians believe that the name "Gunpowder" she received, thanks to puffs of smoke rising from gunshots. This did not happen during the hostilities, but on the days of the exercises held regularly by the Riga military garrison.
According to unofficial data, there are underground rooms in the Powder Tower of Riga. Like it or not, it remains one of the mysteries of the ancient fort. Today, the Military Museum of Latvia is operating inside the building, and you can get into it freely.
The history of fortification in the XIII-XIX centuries
The powder tower of Riga was erected at the beginning of the 13th century. Because of the sand dunes in the river delta, the new fort was called the Sand Tower. He defended the city from the north and was of great strategic importance. The first written mention of the fortification dates back to 1330, when the Livonian knights entered the city. Historical documents say that with a cannon shot, soldiers made a special hole in the wall, and through it, the master Eberhard von Monheim entered Riga.
At first, the tower was “open”, that is, it had a stone wall only on the north side. By the middle of the XIV century, it was completed to a closed cylinder, and the old fort retains this form today.
The tower stood on the border of the Russian Compound, extending to the Sejm of Latvia. The tower located nearby was called Russian because traders from Russia lived near it. In the Middle Ages, there were 28 towers in the fortifications of Riga, but now only one of them remains - the Gunpowder.
The fort was at the center of the battles in 1621, when there was a war between the Swedes and the Poles. It was destroyed, but then the tower was rebuilt. In 1656, when the city was attacked by the army of the sovereign Alexei Mikhailovich, 9 cores fell into the stone walls. The Powder Tower survived another heavy shelling in 1709, when fortifications were besieged by troops under the command of Boris Petrovich Sheremetev. According to legend, Peter I himself shot at the tower
When the Latvian territory belonged to Russia, the Powder Tower of Riga was abandoned for a long time. Time was peaceful, and the old fort, which had lost its defense significance, was useless to anyone. In 1856, Governor-General Suvorov signed a plan for the reorganization of the city. In addition to one tower, all city fortifications were dismantled into stones and demolished.
The ancient tower stood empty for 30 years. Then it was repaired, a beer hall, dance halls and a fencing room were opened.
Ancient Fort in the 20th Century
In 1912, three students created a Nazi circle in the Powder Tower of Riga. This fact remained in the memory of the inhabitants of Riga, since all members of the circle subsequently turned into well-known Nazi figures. One of them - Alfred Rosenberg - even became the head of one of the ministries of the Third Reich.
Before the First World War, the old fortification entertained the townspeople, and in 1916 it was converted into a museum telling about Latvian arrows. In 1938, the country's president opened the Military Museum in the city. Two years later, the Powder Tower was restored, and it acquired a modern look. When the Second World War ended, Nakhimov cadets were stationed here.
In 1957, a museum dedicated to the 1917 revolution was created in the old fortification. After the collapse of the USSR, a branch of the Museum of Military History of Latvia was opened here.
The museum, which occupies the interior of the Powder Tower of Riga, is considered one of the largest in the country. Most of his exhibits are devoted to the military history of Latvia in the 20th century. Museum halls display orders, documents, military uniforms, weapons collections, and old photographs.
The museum is open from April to October from 10:00 to 18:00, and from November to March - from 10:00 to 17:00. Admission is free. Here you can book a tour in Russian. For guide services you need to pay 12 euros.
How to get there
The powder tower of Riga is located in the historical part of the city, on 20 Smilšu Street, 400 meters from the famous Dome Cathedral. From the train station to the tower is only 1.1 km, so it’s easy to walk here. Those who want to use public transport need to get to the Freedom Monument, then go past the Bastion Hill to the Powder Tower.