#126 Kuressaare [Arensberg] Castle
Saaremaa [Oesel] Island, Estonia
1260 and 1338 and later
This is NOT an official Lego site

This castle has been built in honor of Veera Kivik Kriisa, the most incredible woman I have ever known
(I'm pretty sure my loving wife Judy will not dispute this). Veera was born in Tallinn, Estonia in 1923.
Her late teens were spent in an Estonia under Nazi domination, but in 1944 the tide of the war was turning
and the Russians, more feared for their cruelty than the Germans, appeared on the verge of retaking her
country. Most Estonians tried to flee to Sweden, but some including Veera ended up in Germany. Placed in
the Geislingen Estonian Refugee Camp at the end of the war, she worked as a nurse at the little hospital.
There she met Harri Kriisa, an Estonian pipe organ builder 12 years her senior. They dated for a year and then
married, having their first baby in December 1948. Harri hoped to leave Germany for the coal mines of Belgium
and then the sugar cane fields of Australia, but a serious war wound caused rejection after rejection. Then
First Lutheran Church of Decatur, IL inquired about an organ builder for their new church, and Veera and Harri's
most improbable dream came true: coming to America and doing what Harri loved doing the most! The family
arrived in September 1949. Harri built pipe organs, with the help of Veera and a growing family, until he succumbed
to a heart attack in 1976. Veera was incredibly active, raising her three children Mare, Toomas and Tiina, and
winning more than 4,000 ribbons at fairs across the state, especially for baking and knitting. She was also legendary
for walking everywhere, come rain or shine. And she died at age 85 on August 29, 2008 - walking to buy her
morning paper. Despite looking both ways, she was struck down by a reckless bus driver.
She is missed every day in a hundred ways!

Arensberg (Eagle Castle) is located on the southern coast of Oesel [Saaremaa] Island at the western end of the Gulf of Riga. The first castle was wooden and dated from the 11 century. It was destroyed in 1227 by the Brothers of the Militia of Christ [the Swordbrothers] when they captured Oesel Island. The Swordbrothers were a military order founded just a few years earlier by Bishop Albert of Buxhovden (Germany), who had come to Riga in Livonia as both Preacher and Prince. He was determined to use his "crusaders" to expand Livonia into Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Kurland to the west and Russia to the east. Excavations show the original stone castle [see below] to be a rectangular enclosure with a tall watch tower 87 feet tall and 22 feet square in one corner, and a gatehouse at the opposite corner. It dates from 1260-63, the years following the overthrow of the native Oeselian rebellion. The Swordbrothers had become increasingly independent of the Church in Rome, and Pope Gregory IX ordered them to appear before him in Rome in 1235/6. The punishment of the Swordbrothers was severe and the order was virtually wiped out in 1236 in an unsuccessful invasion of Lithuania. The remnants were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights, who had come into the area from Hungary a few years earlier [they were apparently asked to leave none too politely!]
The current fortress, the most dramatic and best preserved of the Estonian "convent castles", was built from 1338 to 1380 by the Teutonic Knights for the Bishop of Oesel-Wiek. The old watch tower was incorporated into the north-east corner of the new castle. The former gatehouse became a corner tower. Another outer wall was added in the 15th century, incorporating several round towers, and the earthen bastions were added in the 17th century. A massive portcullis was suspended above the dark, narrow entrance passage to the castle. The German knights and their Catholic bishops continued to have periodic problems with local and regional uprisings. The drawing below depicts the Teutonic Knights attempt to regain Arensberg from the now local Bishop of Oesel-Wiek in a wintertime siege. The Livonian Order of the Teutonic Knights collapsed in 1559 and the Bishopric of Oesel-Wiek forfeited Arensberg to the Danish government. In 1645 Arensberg passed to Swedish control in the Treaty of Broemsebro. The Russians burnt Arensberg to the ground in the Great Northern War of 1710. In 1836 the castle was sold to the Knighthood of Saaremaa, who gradually restored to castle to its former glory. In 1918, during World War !, Estonia renamed the castle Kuressaare. The Regional Museum of Saaremaa has several exhibits of religious and defensive nature, including torture instruments and dungeon tours.

Drawing of Arensberg as it may have
looked in the 13th century
The ground floor plan
of the current castle
North Elevation &
East Cross-section
Arensberg under seige in 1434


Harri & Veera at Geislingen
Refugee Camp in 1948
Veera & Harri at the
organ console at
First Lutheran Church
Veera in 2000


Photos of the Lego Model
Under construction August-November, 2009
The castle is laid out in mid-August The outer and inner gates
lead to a small courtyard
By September 4 the castle has risen
to the second floor
The infrastructure of the two
towers can be appreciated
The Bishop of Oesel-Wiek can bearly be
seen in his balcony window
The Defense Tower is
done except for the roof...
and the wooden cap house containing
the portcullis mechanism is also
almost completed.
Awaiting 800 more red
roof tiles!


Photos of the Lego Model
Early December, 2009
I just finished counting the bricks as I completed the dismantling of Kuressaare today [January 9]: The castle
utilized 31,037 Lego pieces (including 23,142 light gray and 4,058 red slopes) plus 1,209 parts associated
with the castle's Teutonic knights, soldiers and minions = 32,246
That's third largest in both total Lego and light gray Lego [see FAQ on main page]
The castle is finally done and its huge.
This is the NE view, showing off the
Watch Tower, the oldest part of the
The NW angle features the
The SW view highlights the old
entrance tower and the very
small middle courtyard.
Finally the SE view.

The inner courtyard of Kuressaare
is very compact - here the entrance
passage can be seen.
This view, looking northwest,
shows the well in the center of
the courtyard.
Another view of the inner
Here is the wooden structure
the houses the portcullis
A company of Teutonic knights
returns to the castle...
...amid cheers from their
The foot soldiers bring up
the rear of the procession.
And a view of the stable
and blacksmith in the
middle courtyard.


Build Your Own
Lego Plan
Northnortheast Elevation
Eastsoutheast Elevation

Other Kuressaare Castle pages:

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Castles created by Robert Carney
Page designed & maintained by
Robert Carney