The ruined castle at the village of Helme, 3km from Tõrva, still shows the power of the Teutonic Knights who built it at the end of the 13th century. Nearly 300 years later, it fell briefly into the hands of the Polish Empire before being seized by the Swedes. They blew it up in 1658, to prevent it falling into the hands of the Russians and Lithuanians. It was never subsequently rebuilt.
The caves at the back of the ruins were originally a natural phenomenon but were then widened to provide sanctuary from the wars raging all too often round the castle. They were also extended at the end of the 18th century when the local landlord planned a grotto based on those so popular in England at the time. Amongst the more original names given to one of the caves by the local community is 'Devil's Stomach'.
Helme Order Castle, of
which only ruins have been preserved, was erected in the first half of the
14th century. In 1658, during a war between Russia and Sweden the Swedish
army drove the Lithuanian troops out from the castle and destroyed the
edifice. Since then it has been in ruins. Legend has it that a maiden called
Anne had been immured into the wall of the castle to protect the building,
however, the castle was defeated when the enemy finally got to know the
name of the girl.
The Helme Stronghold was built on a high sandstone hill in the northern
part of which we find up to 3 metres high sandstone caves, called Vanakurja
vats [the Evil One’s Belly] and Moosese kirik [Moses’ Church]. The
first mentioned cave has collapsed. In former times the caves were used as
hiding places, people also recount that through the underground passages
it was possible to escape from the stronghold. In the valley at the foot of the
hill there is the Sacrifice or Doctor’s Spring, the water of which is said to
cure you of seven diseases. Sacrifices were made on Holy Thursday and on
First Whitsunday, maidens had to drop beads in the spring to preserve their
beauty, this is one of the legends how Helme [Bead] has got its name.