Riga – Lutheran cathedral

History

   The construction of the cathedral was solemnly begun in 1211, when during the ceremony the bishop Albert laid its foundation stone. It is believed that the construction of the church gained speed in 1215, after burning the first cathedral church in the Old Town. At that time, stone building materials were also changed to brick. In 1266 bishop Wilhelm of Modena, Pope’s legate, had already made council in the cathedral. It is believed that by that time the chancel and the eastern part of the nave were completed and separated by a wall from the unfinished, further part of the church. At the end of the 14th and at the beginning of the 15th century, the cathedral was enlarged by the addition of a western aisle and side chapels and elevation of the side walls of the central nave, thanks to which the church became a basilica. At that time, the walls of the tower were also erected and an octagonal pyramidal spire was added. Thus completed, it was the main episcopal church in Livonia, until secularization in 1561.
  
The cathedral kept its appearance until 1547, when the great fire of Riga broke out. At that time, the gothic church tower burned, which only in 1595 received a new crown. During the siege of the city in 1710, the roof of the cathedral was severely damaged. Later, during the reconstruction works, the roof inclination of the side aisles was changed, covering the round windows, and the choir obtained the baroque roof. In 1775, the city council of Riga ordered the demolition of the tower’s spire and the construction of a new baroque one. From 1881 to 1914 extensive reconstruction and renovation work was carried out in the church and cloisters. As a result of these works, the cathedral and cloister have gained its present appearance. Further restoration works were carried out from 1959 to 1962 and in the 1980s.

Architecture

   The cathedral was built of brick, stone was used only in the earliest phase to erect foundations and external corners of the building. Initially, it had the appearance of a hall structure, but at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when aisles and side chapels were added, and the walls of the central nave were elevated, church obtained the form of a basilica. On the eastern side of the church there was erected a square presbytery ended with an apse, and the western part was crowned with a gothic, massive tower. On the south side, a square courtyard was built, surrounded by gothic cloisters with rib vaults.

Current state

   The Riga cathedral is the largest medieval church and one of the oldest religious buildings in Latvia and the entire Baltic region. It combines the features of romanesque and early gothic architecture and, to a lesser extent, baroque and art nouveau architecture. One of its most valuable architectural elements are the 13th-century early gothic cloisters, the only ones preserved in these area and one of the few in Central and Eastern Europe. Currently, the cathedral serves the Latvian Evangelical-Lutheran Church, it is also a place of concerts and an object made available for tourists to visit.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index