The Ancient Stronghold

The Dome Hill in Tartu has been an ancient location of a fortress and a settlement. In old times it was the place for river crossing. The oldest traces of a settlement date back to the approximate period of 250BC – 50 AD. Until the 8-11th century there was a stronghold and a settlement on the Dome Hill which the Prince of Kiev–Russia Yaroslav the Wise destroyed during his raid to build his own fortress on the same site. The event is recorded in Russian chronicles and constitutes the first mentioning of Tartu in 1030.

In 1030–1061 there was a stronghold, named Yuryev, the military fore post of the state of Kiev-Russia on the Dome Hill. According to the chronicles the fortress was destroyed by Sossols.

In the period 1061-1215 the stronghold was used temporarily. Repeated raids to it have been mentioned both in the Russian chronicles and the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia. At the end of the twelfth century the Pope called for the holy war, it meant the Christianization of Estonian territory with sword and fire. 1220-1223 the Livonian Brothers of the Sword built up the fortress on Dome Hill.

In 1223 Estonians had an uprising against the foreign power. Among other places Tartu was conquered. In 1224 the stronghold was attacked by the Brethren of the Order. Estonians invited Russians, headed by Prince Vyatshko to help defend it. The defenders pushed down burning wheels, but the knights of the Order succeeded in conquering it with the help of the conquest tower. With the fall of Tartu the military opposition to Germans ended on the mainland of Estonia.

The battle for Tartu, 1223. The drawing by the artist Ludwig v. Maydell from 1842 (TÜR. 7862)