Church of St. John in Cēsis was built in the second half of the thirteenth century and consecrated in 1284. At the beginning of the 16th century, when the Reformation began, it was devastated by the town’s inhabitants. The church was one of the first places in Latvia, where the congregation turned to the Reformation and the temple became one of its most important centers. During the Counter-Reformation between 1582 and 1621, it became a bishop’s property again. During the Polish-Swedish war it was damaged, and after the fire in 1607 only the burnt walls were left. From 1626, reconstruction began, and in 1629 the church was given to Lutherans. After the last great fire in 1748, the church walls were reinforced with massive buttresses. In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, a large renovation was carried out, combined with a reconstruction, trying to restore the original appearance to the temple. It suffered the last destruction during the Second World War in 1944, then repaired in 1945-1947.
In the 14th / 15th century, the church took the form of a magnificent three-aisle basilica (the largest in Latvia, except Riga), consisting of a four-bay nave, a quadrilateral, initially quite low tower on the axis of the west elevation, and a two-sided and two-bay chancel on the eastern side. The church is 65 meters long and 32 meters wide. In addition, a sacristy was added to the temple on the north side.
The side walls were pierced with gothic lancet windows with traceries and reinforced with massive, but early modern buttresses. The entire length of the chancel and the nave are decorated with a frieze made of small pointed-arched recesses. Originally, access to the church was through a pointed sandstone portal in the west facade of the nave, later covered with a porch in the ground floor of the tower. It was decorated with representations of fantastic animals. Similarly decorated in the form of human heads were Gothic corbels supporting the rib vaults in the chancel and the nave.
Alttoa K., Bergholde-Wolf A., Dirveiks I., Grosmane E., Herrmann C., Kadakas V., Ose J., Randla A., Mittelalterlichen Baukunst in Livland (Estland und Lettland). Die Architektur einer historischen Grenzregion im Nordosten Europas, Berlin 2017.