The largest cave in the Baltic countries and also the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia. On the walls of the cave, there are inscriptions from the 17th century. The legend of the Rose of Turaida began in this cave.
This is the widest and highest cave in the Baltics. It is 19 meters deep, 12 meters wide and 10 meters high. The cave was formed from the yellow-brown sandstone rock of the Gauja river bank; its formation is due to a millennium-long interaction between the river and an underground spring.
The cave is considered the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia because visitors, from even the earliest days, wanted to leave “decorations” such as names, initials, and the dates of their visits engraved on the walls of the cave. Inside the cave, you may even find coats-of-arms and names of various barons and estate owners. These were made-to-order for a fee by local craftsmen who would wait for wealthy visitors near the cave armed with tools, stepladders, and templates. Today, it is no longer permitted to write on the cave walls because it is a protected archeological and geological monument.
According to local folk legend, the spring flowing out of the cave are the tears of the wife of the Liv chief, Rindaugs. The story tells that the chief buried his unfaithful wife in the sandy bank of the Gauja river. The poor woman, distraught by her guilty conscience, cried so hard that her tears flowed out of the large cave. To this day, the spring’s waters are said to have healing properties. Yet another tale explains how the cave got its name. A long time ago there was a good man who lived in a cave and used the spring water to heal people. “Gut Mann” in German means “good man”.
Gutman’s Cave is a place of ancient worship. Up until the 19th century, people would come to make their offerings to the deities. One of the most enduring legends is the story of Maija, the Rose of Turaida. Here is the story:
In the spring of 1601 during the Polish-Swedish war, the Swedish army occupied Turaida castle. After the battle, the record keeper of the castle, named Greif, found a little girl just a few weeks old among the dead bodies. He took her in and raised her as his daughter. It happened to be the month of May so he named her Maija/May. As the years went by the little girl grew to be a beautiful young maiden and because of her beauty, she was called the Rose of Turaida. Her fiancé, Vicor Hail, was a gardener at Sigulda castle on the opposite side of the Gauja river and in the evenings they would meet at Gutman’s Cave. During that time there were two Polish deserters – Jakubovsky and Skudrits. Jakubovsky lusted after Maija and wanted her to marry him, but the girl turned down his proposal.
This angered Jakubovksy and he decided to take her by force. He sent Skudritis to her with a fake message from Victor telling her to come to the usual meeting place but at a different time. When the girl arrived and realized that she was trapped, she chose to die instead of being shamed. At that time people believed in the power of magic. Maija had a red silk scarf around her neck; a gift from her fiancé Victor. She offered this scarf, which, she said, bore magic powers and was impossible to cut through in exchange for letting her go. She encouraged Jacubovky to test the powers of the scarf and use his sword to see if she was telling the truth. Initially, Jakubovsky hesitated, but then cut with full force only to see the girl collapsed. Jakubovky, fearing punishment for his deed, ran off to the woods, and hung himself. Later that night Victor found his love murdered in the cave and ran to Turaida for help. In the rush, he lost his ax at the scene and was eventually accused of murder and sentenced to death. However, the course of events was changed by Skudritis who had followed Jakubovsky and had seen what happened. He told the court what he witnessed and Victor was acquitted. The girl was buried in the cemetery by Turaida church where you may visit her final resting place. For a very long time, this story was thought to be a sad legend, but in the middle of the 19th century, the court archives in Vidzeme revealed the transcript of the murder case of Maija in the Gutman’s Cave dated August 1620. This ancient legend has led many artists to create works in praise of the devotion of The Rose of Turaida and the power of love.
Right next to the Gutman’s Cave there is a smaller Victor’s cave. The story goes that Victor Hail hacked out this cave for his fiancé, the Rose of Turaida, so she could watch him at work in the gardens of Sigulda castle.
One may find the story of Maija and Victor similar to that of Romeo and Juliet. This Latvian legend of love has its birthplace here in Sigulda and that is why Sigulda bears the title “City of Love.” Share in the legend by meeting your loved one at the station clock (a smaller ‘brother’ of the famous Laima clock in Riga), and go for a romantic walk amid the spring blooms or autumn leaves.
The Gūtmaņala’s neighborhood is suitable for a leisurely stroll, you can examine the plants and possibly even meet animals that make the Gauja National Park special.
Before going to Gūtmaņala, guests can visit the nearby Sigulda Tourist Information Centre “Gūtmaņala”.
We invite you to remember that the caves are located in the Gauja National Park area and ask you to be attentive and respectful of the ancient geological monuments without damaging them!