Cēsis – St John’s Church

History

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.

Architecture

The church is a three-nave, largest basilica in Latvia, outside of Riga. Its length is 65 meters and the width is 32 meters. From the eastern side it is ended with slightly wider than the central nave, polygonal chancel, and from the west side a tall tower, which was originally slightly lower. The side walls are open with gothic ogival windows with traceries and reinforced with massive but modern buttresses. The chancel and the central nave are decorated with a frieze. On the north side, the sacristy was added to the temple. Inside, many details of gothic architecture have survived, for example, the presentation of fantastic animals in the main western portal, or gothic consoles in the form of human heads, and a collection of about 30 tombstones, among others Teutonic landmasters.

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