This is the cover artwork from our old demo Semigalls’ Warchant (1997 and re-released in 2005). It also can be seen on album t-shirts, we have made with this picture. Now I want to tell you what exactly is what you can see in this picture.
It was painted by Rihards Zariņš back in 1920’s and it’s called – “Viestard’s fight with Crusader”.
Viestards (or Viesturs, Vestards, Vester, Viesthardus, Vestardus) was a famous Semigallian warchief from Tērvete land. Lately he became known as chief (kunic) of all Semigallia (Zemgale region today, see map).
He lived in 13th century and probably died after 1229. First time, when his name was mentioned in chronicles (around 1205), he collaborated with crusaders and asked them for help to fight Lithuanians. Later though, when he realized that crusaders could be a threat to his own country as they wanted lands instead of preaching a new religion, he turned against them. Around 1228 Schwertbrüder (Swordbrothers) Order and crusaders invaded Semigallia, but were unsuccessful. As for revenge mission, Viestards in next year led attack on christianized land of Aizkraukle (Komturei Ascheraden). There Semigallians killed, pillaged and took a lot of captives and then turned back home.
Here I want to add, that at those times it was very common for local pagan tribes to attack each other for taking loot and captives, whom lately were turned into slaves. It is very similar of how North American Indian tribes fought with each other.
Soon after Viestards and his warband were on return way to home, the leading crusader knight of Aizkraukle castle Marquart von Burbach, gathered local people and went to pursue Semigallians. He caught them early in the morning and attacked enemy’s camp. Semigallians were taken by surprise and many were killed. Marquart himself attacked the warchief, but Viestards just grabbed up burning branch from the bonfire and with it knocked knight down from a horse! Chronicles tell that Marquart lost a lot of teeth that day, but Viestards luckily escaped back home.
And so, this ancient duel between pagan chief Viestards and crusader knight Marquart was painted by Rihards Zariņš and it is seen on the cover of our Semigalls’ Warchant album.