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Topping Out Rite at the Chapel of the Dobele Castle Ruins

On 3 December, a year-and-a-half after commencing reconstruction, a rafter crown was lifted atop the newly built chapel in the restored part of the Dobele Castle Ruins. The rite signposts the end of an important stage of the restoration and conservation; furthermore, the restorers of the Dobele Castle Ruins argue that this is a unique castle ruin preservation and conservation project in Europe where the roof is built in-between the existing stone walls.

The topping out rite was attended by the public and was addressed by Andrejs Spridzāns, the Chairman of the Council of Dobele District, who talked about the origins of the project and benefits for the locals from the restoration and construction of a cultural site. Architect Pēteris Blūms, the author of the project’s concept, addressed the value of the historic heritage of the Dobele Castle. Ervīns Koncevičs, a member of the Management Board of General Partnership RERE Meistari 1, used the rite to give more details as to the restoration, conservation and construction of new building structures.

The attendees symbolically signed a historic 14th century stone in the castle’s foundations with a topping out rite commemorative plaque as a symbolic signpost for the next stage – new life in the castle preserving its history. The museum is to save the stone for exhibitions as a piece of memorabilia from the topping out rite.

The Eastern Wing of the Castle will house a classroom, exposition, and stairs to the roof where visitors will be allowed to gaze upon Dobele using the vantage point and altitude of medieval castle guards. Moreover, the Chapel of the Dobele Castle will now serve as a place to to go in, warm up, view an exposition or enjoy a concert. This will be somewhat of a “hearth of the castle”. Any castle ruins must be given a second chance to resume life without losing their identity and true history, says Architect Pēteris Blūms.

Extensive restoration works were carried out once the construction was commenced: rebuilding of historic granite clay bricks, restoration of plaster and seams, and the successful construction of technologically complex external engineering networks leading up to the castle mound territory using the available city networks. Construction works inside the chapel are still ongoing – stair assembly, stone-works, finishing works, engineering networks, and aisle filling. The chapel was also 3D surveyed in the cloud environment allowing to accurately develop structural solutions for foundations and ceiling structures.

The construction works, including complex conservation works, were carried out by General Partnership RERE Meistari 1. The author of the project’s concept and the head architect is Pēteris Blūms; the design was developed and the author’s supervision was carried out by LLC Konvents; LLC RS Būvnieks is in charge of the construction works. Dobele Local Government has attracted European Union funding for the reconstruction project of the chapel stone walls of the Dobele Livonian Order Castle Ruins under the programme “Preservation and Development of Significant Cultural Historic Heritage for the Improvement of Cultural Tourism Attractions in the Zemgale Region”.