The castle stands high above the Navrona
River on a bluff opposite the Estonian City, Narva. It was constructed during
the reign of Ivan III as a counter to the Teutonic Knights' Livonian fortress
city. See A .Kurbatov's article "The investigations of Ivangorod
fortifications" in Fortifikatsiya v drevnosti i srednyevekov'ye,
St. Petersburg, 1995. Photographs of the fortress are
Copy of apainting of the fortress.
Ivangorod view of the exterior northern wall from the
road to Narva. The photographs shown here were taken during several visits in
Ivangorod is impressive in size, grandeur and its unequivocal challenge to
the Narva castle. Both fortresses are only separated by the bed of the Navrova
River. Ivangorod was named after Muscovite Grand Prince Ivan III, during whose
reign Moscow completed the incorporation of Russian lands. The unification of
Russian lands under Moscow concluded at the end of the 15th century. In that
time, many works were undertaken for the strengthening of the borders of the
Russian State erection of new fortresses and the fundamental reconstruction of
new ones. One of these new defensive complexes was Ivangorod. Novogorodian
masons very astutely chose a place on the bank of the river Narova for the
fortifications a high stratified rock, called by the people Virgin's Mountain.
The river winds around the rock, and serves as a boundary between Russia and
Estlandia, holding in check the forays of the German-Livonian order. Across
from the Russian fortification was the German fortress ( High Herman ) the
castle of Narva. Under the threat of its garrisons, the construction of
Ivangorod was complicated and dangerous. Therefore, it was decided to carry out
the construction in the summer of 1492 at exactly the same time as Sweden,
Poland, and the Livonian Order stopped, for a short while, their constant
invasions on their neighbors. The fortress itself was built on the instructions
of the grand prince. It was a regular fortress, i.e. strictly quadrilateral,
with square towers. Its area is 1600 sq. meters. The height of the walls is 14
meters. The shape of the merlons reminds one of the Moscow and Novgorod
Kremlins. The manpower in the fortress garrison was relatively small.
Outside View of Ivangorod with the white tower of the
High Herman castle in Narva across the river.
The new fortress literally sprung up before the eyes of the Livonians in one
summer. If the fortress Ivangorod had remained undefended into the winter, then
with the formation of the ice on the river, the knights would probably have
tried to take the new Moscow fortress. The square citadel with walls to 16m was
sufficiently powerful to fend off enemy advances and defend the nearby Russian
The architectural character of the ensemble was more or less simple. Its
powerful walls are built of massive limestone blocks, the walls were flanked by
rectangular towers with tent shaped roofs. The rock foundation, which places
the fortress at a significant height gives Ivangorod an especial simplicity.
The simple forms, even the exterior harshness of appearance of the Russian
fortress, as it were, provided many complicated antagonistic fortifications
surrounding the main tower of the German-Livonian fortress. German merchants
saw in their so-quickly fortified neighbor a strong competitor in trade with
Western Europe. The fighting power of the Livonian order was also thus
undermined. So there began a lengthy battle on the banks of the Narova for the
unhindered exit of the Russian merchant ships into the Baltic Sea.
Interior View of the inner court and cross wall and
remaining foundations of several buildings.
In 1496 the entire garrison died in the course of the seven hours' Swedish
siege. However, when they knew that Muscovite relief troops were approaching
the fortress, the Swedish troops fled the area. Ivangorod was won back and
taken by the retinue of Voyvode Ivan Gundar and Mikhail Klyapin later in the
same year. Three thousand Russian soldiers built not only a new wooden
barracks, but also stronger bastions. The fortress was restored within a
12-week period with new walls being added. At the same time, the Boyar city was
under construction, with a new group of towers. It extended to the northeast of
Detinets, along the Revel tract and the banks of the Navrova. The eastern wall
of Detinets, along with two towers, was included in the area of the Boyar city,
which was rectangular in plan. The new towers Upper, New, Old-gate, Alarm,
Wide, Proviant, and Gate Towers were equally spaced along the perimeter. The
towers, which were in the walls were rectangular, while the corner towers were
round and stood out from the walls of the fortress.
The battle for the northwest borders along the Narova went unceasingly for
almost 10 years. During that period, the fortress, with the surrounding lands
changed hands repeatedly. Separate parts of the architecture were rebuilt,
removed, and finally fully fortified. After the reconstruction, Ivangorod
became one of the strongest defensive points of the 16th century.
In 1502 Ivangorod succeeded in repelling another siege. After that, it was
reinforced by a new system of walls and towers. The fortress continued to be
developed for another 100 years. Ivangorod became a complex fortified
stronghold with several lines of defense. The new construction brought in a new
phase in defensive architecture. Begun again in 1507, new construction had the
goal of widening the fortress toward the west. Here, around Detinets, there was
still free space where the enemy could mount a siege on Ivangorod from the
Narova. Novgorodians under Vladimir Tarakanov and Markus Grek erected new walls
around Detinets, forming a trapezoidal shape, with Gunpowder, and Well Towers
on the same side of Virgin Mountain. These towers were round, with wooden
floors dividing their levels. They had fighting platforms on the roof, with
In 1556, the defenders of the fortress went to work on the construction of the
Boyar embankment, or, as it was called by the Livonians, the Russian
Blockhouse. The stone wall without towers was intended to close the approach
from the northwest. Ivangorod fortress was, in 1564, essentially ready for the
new phase of fighting between Russia, Poland, and Sweden.
In 1704, following the capture of Narva by the troops led by Peter the Great,
the Swedish garrison of Ivangorod surrendered. Russia yet again regained
control over the fortress.
Church of St. Nicholas: Remaining on the territory of the Boyar city, St.
Nicholas Church is a small limestone structure. In shape, it is rectangular,
almost square, with low, half-circular apses on the eastern side. For a while,
this church served the Protestant faith, but was later converted back to the
Orthodox Rite. Church View of the inside of the
eastern courtyard with Church of St. Nicholas.
The Uspenski Church was built at the end of the 16th and beginning of 17th
centuries on the grounds of the Boyar city.
Economic and Functional Structures:
The years 1690-1691 are fixed as the date for the construction of the
gunpowder storehouse on one of the historical plans of Ivangorod, and shortly
thereafter, the Arsenal. Both structures were erected while the ensemble
belonged to the Swedes, who supported the defensive means of the once-
Muscovite fortress. The arsenal occupies the whole space along the eastern wall
of Boyar City, between the Water Tower and New Tower, eliminating many of the
low arched buildings which were there previously. The facade of the arsenal is
an unbroken arcade, with no decorations. The roof of the arsenal was used as a
fighting platform on the east side. After the return of the fortress to Russia
as a result of the victories of Russian weaponry in the Northern War, a
garrison school was located in it. In the buildings of the arsenal, there was
an engineering detachment and a warehouse. .
View of the landward (Russian) side of Ivangorod
fortress during a visit in December 1991. In the forground is the lower
wall of an outwork bastion built to accomodate artillery.
In the second half of the 18th and a large part of the 19th century, the
fortress was under the supervision of the war ministry, and engineering teams
carried out repairs on its fortifications. Already in this time, the historical
and architectural value of the ensemble was known. In the 20th century, damage
inflicted by the Nazis in retreating across the Narova was added to the wear of
the years. They barbarically tore down six of the towers and large segments of
the walls. From 1920 through 1941 Ivangorod was part of the Estonian Republic.
Currently the borderline between Estonia and Russia is the Narova River.
Go to top