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In this part of the text we have used the publication of Kristīne Ante on reconstruction of the life of the Alšvanga Evangelical Lutheran church in the end of 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th century, which has been included in the book Suitu identitāte edited by Janīna Kursīte, published in 2005.

The Reformation in Courland took place in 1561, when the last master of the Livonian Order and the first Duke of Courland Gothard Kettler converted to Lutheranism. The first Evangelical Lutheran church of Alšvanga could have been built sometime after February 28, 1567, when the Duke’s decision was announced in Ladtag to establish church congregations in 43 places to restore or rebuild churches, as well as to build schools and poor houses in several places. According to this decision, a parsonage was to be established at each church. In this Landtag, the amount of farmers’ fees for the maintenance of the church and the pastor was also determined. The task of the nobles was to ensure the collection of these fees.

The 1577 Alshwang church register records taxpayers and the parish’s annual income. It shows that the largest landowner was Jacob Schwerin. On the other hand, the two biggest taxpayers were Jacob Nagel and Heinrich Buttler. It also states that farmers paid for the maintenance of the parish in grain and money, while coastal fishermen supplied fish. The land was not privately owned by the pastor – it was only given for use. The church also hired a schoolmaster, who received 15 marks a year for his work.

However, the earliest recorded year of the church’s construction is the one mentioned in the magazine Das Inland. It says that a Protestant chapel was built in Alschwanga in 1590. There is an (unproven) belief that it was a wooden building, which was probably located on the site of the current Kalnbirze cemetery.

Visitations of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Alšvanga took place in 1610 and 1629. In 1610, there were two pastors in the Alschwang parish: Johan Lusander and Johan Prich. In the first protocol, there is also a reference to the entry in the church book of May 17, 1577, from which it can be determined that the pastor’s salary has increased compared to that time. So already in 1577, Lutheran preachers have been working in Alšvanga. Before pastor Lusander (who worked in Alšvanga from 1591 to 1636), pastor Heinrich Bohr worked here. The pastor has owned horses, but he has not had his own stable.

In the visitation protocol of 1610, it is mentioned that the first need was the construction of the Aliswanges house, where a school for Latvian children and a priest’s apartment were to be placed. The fact that the congregation is small and its income is small is mentioned as the main obstacle to construction. A schoolmaster, an organist and a church leader also worked in the church. The congregation was in debt to the nobleman for land rent. The organist received 20 thalers a year, as did the schoolmaster, who also wanted to be paid separately for singing during his departure. Those entering the parish had to pay 40 thalers plus the cemetery fee.

In the protocol of the visitation of July 24, 1629, it is mentioned that the pastor’s house and the stable are in a state of decay and must be repaired so that people’s lives are not endangered. A school has also functioned in the parish house. The schoolmaster has taught the children to read, write, to know God, as well as to sing in a choir. It is also mentioned that after the visitation in 1610, the farmers promised to increase the contribution to the church, but they did not do so, so the priest could not pay the schoolmaster properly.

Services were held only on Sundays, twice a day. The first service was intended for farmers. In the summer it started at 6, but in winter at 7 in the morning and lasted about an hour and a half. The next service was for the Germans. In summer at 8, but in winter at 9. The order of the peasant services was as follows: psalm of thanksgiving, hymn Te Deus laudamus, reading of the basic points of the catechism, song One God in the highest, declaration of faith, sermon and at the end a song of thanksgiving. The order of the second service was similar, but the declaration of faith was sung and a collection was also collected. Excerpts from the letters of the New Testament were read in the German service, which was not typical in the Latvian service, as only fragments from the catechism were used in them. Neither beer nor brandy was allowed to be sold in Alšvanga during and before the German service.

The pastor had to write down those who did not attend church. If the peasant did not come to church for the third time, he was punished, depending on the degree of impiety, with a fine. The child had to be baptized within the next few days after birth, otherwise there was a threat of punishment. The pastor should have publicly announced the birth of an illegitimate child. Visitors have noted that in the Alšvanga parish, it has not been observed that a husband and wife live together before marriage. The fee for marriage in the church was set at 10 shillings. The pastor was not allowed to charge for visiting the sick, only a voluntary donation. The faithful had to notify the pastor about the death of a family member. Otherwise, dogs and beasts will tear their souls. Under threat of death penalty it was forbidden to forcibly take (steal) brides and later send them back to their parents.

In general, the two visitation protocols testify to the multifaceted and active activity of the Lutheran congregation in Alšvanga during these years. Between 1590 and 1610, a small wooden chapel (church) was also built in Feliksberg (Jūrkalne). There is news that during the Lutheran period the Feliksberg parish was independent and only during the Catholic period it became a branch of the Alšvanga church. It seems that in 1625, the current stone church was built in Alšvanga. All that is known for sure is that in 1629, the question of choosing the symbol of the Alšvanga church and finishing the tower with tiles was resolved.

In 1623, Johann Ulrich von Schwerin, the future heir of the Alšvanga area, converted to Catholicism before his wedding with Polish aristocrat Barbara Konarska. Beginning in 1632, using his newly acquired rights as the owner of the area, he took away the churches of Alšvanga and Feliksberg from the Lutherans and gave them to the Catholic congregations. For the introduction of Catholicism, Jesuits were invited to Alšvanga, who established here one of the largest missions in Courland.

In 1636, with the active participation of the bishop of Samogitia, Georg Tiškevič, the Lutheran pastor Lusander (also mentioned as Lisander) was expelled from Alšvanga, who, speaking his last sermon at the Ķiņķi linden tree, predicted that when this linden tree will be withered, Luther’s faith would be restored in Alšvanga. In 1637, the conflict between Lutherans and Catholics turned violent and the owner of what we know today as the Land of Suiti, Johann Ulrich von Schwerin, was poisoned in the Reģi Manor. The mutual conflict was extinguished only after the intervention of the Polish king Władysław IV, who determined that the churches of Alšvanga and Feliksberg remain with the Catholics.

The remaining Lutherans later went to pray and brought gifts to the Ķiņķ linden tree. For a while there was even a small chapel next to it. The Catholic priests of Alšvanga did not like it and, in the end, the linden tree was cut down and burned on Midsummer’s Eve of 1904.

Lutherans have always had a presence in the Land of Suiti and they have made a significant contribution to the development of the area with their work. The owners of the private manors of Reģi, Birži and Almāle and their peasants were basically not Catholics, because these manors were not the property of the Schwerins in the 17th century. Foresters and rangers working in state forest management were also often Lutheran. The same applies to tenants of manors. There have even been several Lutheran cemeteries in the area, such as Almāles, Dzērveņu, Strautu and others.

In 1937, there was an intention to build a new evangelical Lutheran church in Alšvanga in order to restore the Lutheran congregation here again after a 300-year absence. At that time, around 200 Lutherans lived within the Alšvanga Parish and church services were held in country houses. Jēkabs Ezernieks, the owner of the Alšvanga mill and mayor, had even donated a plot of land on a hill, next to the lake and the Curonian Castle hill, for the construction of the church. The most active church members were elected to the building commission: J. Ezernieks, P. Gaudiņš, J. Kuškis, Ercums and Klims. However, this intention was not implemented.

The Lutheran parish in Alsunga was finally restored on November 2, 2003 after a 367-year break. First, it was served by the pastor of the Katrina Church in the city of Kuldīga, dean Viesturs Pirro. After that Didzis Skuška. At the moment, the parish in Alsunga has ceased its activity again due to the lack of parishioners, and the Lutherans of Alsung are served from the church of Ēdole in the neighboring parish.

The borders of Jūrkalne parish today also include the tiny Ulmale – Labraga Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1896, which can be seen in the pictures attached here. It stands on a traditionally Lutheran land which was added to Jūrkalne parish when the parish boundaries were changed during the interwar period.