A castle and town at the eastern frontier of Livonia on the western bank of the river Narva (in mod. Estonia).
Although some fortifications may have existed earlier, the first written evidence for a castle in Narva dates from 1277, during the period of Danish rule. The urban settlement developed and received civic rights at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In 1346 both the town and the castle passed to the Teutonic Order with the purchase of North Estonia from the king of Denmark.
The importance of Narva for medieval Livonia lay in its location on the border and on an important trade route between Reval (mod. Tallinn, Estonia) and Novgorod. The town remained under the shadow of Reval, which jealously protected its own trading privileges and prevented Narva from joining the Hanseatic League. When the dependency of the Hanseatic merchants was closed in Novgorod in 1494, the Teutonic Order tried to transfer the Russian trade to Narva. These efforts failed because of the objections of Reval. The district became especially important militarily when Muscovy erected the castle of Ivangorod opposite Narva in 1492. In 1558-1581 the town was occupied by the Muscovites and made into a center for their trade with the West.