Limbaži is a town in the Vidzeme region of northern Latvia. Limbaži is located 90 km northeast of the capital Riga. The population is 8705 people. During the Middle Ages, as part of Livonia, Limbazi was a fortified town with stone walls, second in importance only to Riga.
The name Lemisele is believed to be Livonian 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 settlement known as Lemisele, part of Metsepole. In the early 13th century, Bishop Albert and the Teutonic knights destroyed the village while conquering Metsepole, and built a castle, around which formed the new city, Lemsahl.
Until the beginning of the 16th century, Lemsahl could be reached by seagoing vessels travelling up the Svētupe. Ships came from as far as Lubeck and Copenhagen 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. 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.
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, 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.
While under Swedish rule, the village was renamed Limbaži sometime in the 17th century. During the Great Northern War, 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 1800s, and several publishing houses were opened, the largest of which was K.Paucīsis Press.
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 diary processors in Latvia, all based there.
Limbazi Town Council
Address: Baumaņu Kārļa laukums 1, Limbaži, LV-4001,
Phone: +371 64023003
Fax: +371 64023000