Limbaži is a town in the Vidzeme
Vidzeme is one of the historical and cultural regions of Latvia. Literally meaning "the Middle Land" it is situated in north-central Latvia north of the Daugava River...

 region of northern Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

. Limbaži is located 90 km northeast of the capital Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

. The population is 8705 people. During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, as part of Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

, Limbazi was a fortified town with stone walls
Defensive wall
A defensive wall is a fortification used to protect a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements...

, second in importance only to Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...



The name Lemisele is believed to be Livonian
Livonian language
Livonian belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages. It is a nearly extinct language, with one of its last native speakers having died in February 2009. It is closely related to Estonian...

 word meaning "wide isle in a forest swamp". The German Lemsahl is derived from the Livonian name.

As the story goes, the name Limbaži originated sometime in the 17th century. A recently arrived Swedish minister overheard some gibberish, "limba" and "aži". Mistakenly, he assumed this was the name of the village, and so today the town is called "Limbaži".


In ancient times, Limbaži was a Livonian
Livonian people
The Livonians or Livs are the indigenous inhabitants of Livonia, a large part of what is today northwestern Latvia and southwestern Estonia. They spoke the Uralic Livonian language, a language which is closely related to Estonian and Finnish...

 settlement known as Lemisele, part of Metsepole
Mõtsa Pūol, Metsepole , was an ancient Livonian county inhabited by a Finnic people Livonians, on the east coast of the Gulf of Riga, at the northwest of what is now the Vidzeme region of Latvia...

. In the early 13th century, Bishop Albert and the Teutonic knights
Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...

 destroyed the village while conquering Metsepole, and built a castle, around which formed the new city, Lemsahl.

Medieval Limbaži

Until the beginning of the 16th century, Lemsahl could be reached by seagoing vessels travelling up the Svētupe. Ships came from as far as Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

 and Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 to trade for honey, wax, lumber, grain, and furs. The small trading camp surrounding the castle grew into a large town, and was admitted to the Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

. Each year, Lemsahl hosted a conference attended by barons from all over Livonia, and the city hosted at least three other fairs throughout the year as well. During these fairs, the town may have held as many as 20,000 people at once. In addition, the Bishop of Riga made Lemsahl his spring residence, which became a walled city to protect both the bishop and the trading center.
In population, Lemsahl was second only to Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...


By 1500, however, the Svētupe became too shallow to navigate. Goods were sent elsewhere, and Lemsahl began a century long decline. During the Livonian War
Livonian War
The Livonian War was fought for control of Old Livonia in the territory of present-day Estonia and Latvia when the Tsardom of Russia faced a varying coalition of Denmark–Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.During the period 1558–1578,...

, Ivan the Terrible's forces burned down Lemsahl in 1558, while its residents fled to the nearby forests and marshes for shelter. The city was burned down by the Swedes in 1567, and again by the Russians in 1575. In 1602, the Swedes and Poles fought yet again for the city, completely demolishing its fortifications and walls. By the time the wars had ended, the city was so demolished, only three houses and a handful of residents remained.

18th and 19th centuries

While under Swedish rule, the village was renamed Limbaži sometime in the 17th century. During the Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

, Vidzeme was totally ravaged by Peter the Great's forces. But as the story goes, while searching for Limbaži, the Russian army got lost in a heavy fog. After stumbling in circles, the soldiers began to believe such a village may not exist after all, and moved on. Limbaži survived the war unscathed.

The city completely burned down again in 1747, after which today's city layout began to develop. In the 19th century, the city began to grow again. In 1821 there were 674 inhabitants, but by 1900 there were about 2000. In 1876, hat-maker A.Tīls opened "Limbažu Filcs", the town's oldest company, which also secured jobs for generations of the city's inhabitants. The first town library was built in the late 19th century, and several publishing houses were opened, the largest of which was K.Paucīsis Press.

Twentieth century

After World War I Limbaži continued to grow. The long-awaited rail line to Riga opened in 1934, and a 50-bed hospital opened in 1936. In Soviet times the population jumped to 8,000, with many five-story Soviet-style apartments appearing in the 1960s. During the Soviet period, Limbaži became a factory-town with "Lauktehnika" farm machinery, "Limbažu Filcs" hats, and "Limbažu Piens" one of the largest milk processors in Latvia, all based there.


1385 1622 1773 1800 1840 1863 1881 1897 1914 1920 1925 1930 1943 1959 1970 1979 1989 1997 2004
Population 6000 12 549 600 877 1134 1814 2412 4700 2501 3085 2935 2806 4823 5791 8257 9985 9522 8934

Notable residents

  • Kārlis Baumanis
    Karlis Baumanis
    Kārlis Baumanis , better known as Baumaņu Kārlis, was a Latvian composer. He is the author of the lyrics and music of Dievs, svētī Latviju! , the national anthem of Latvia....

     (May 11, 1835 – January 10, 1905), composer of the Latvian national anthem, "Dievs, svētī Latviju!
    Dievs, sveti Latviju!
    Dievs, svētī Latviju! is the national anthem of Latvia. Words and music by Kārlis Baumanis .-Composition:...


Notable locations

  • Limbaži old town, with remains of the town wall
  • Ruins of the Archbishop's castle
  • Limbaži museum of history
  • Livonian hill-fort at Ķezberkalns
  • "Svētais Jānis" Lutheran Church
  • Kārlis Baumanis grave and monument
  • Limbažu Lielezers (Lake Limbaži)
  • The national Olympic training center for canoeing and kayaking
    Canoe racing
    This article discusses canoe sprint and canoe marathon, competitive forms of canoeing and kayaking on more or less flat water. Both sports are governed by the International Canoe Federation ....

    is situated in

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