Riga – St Peter’s Church

History

   The first record of the church of St. Peter comes from 1209, when the cemetery next to it was consecrated. In 1297, the first mention of the church tower appeared, which the citizens were to fortify at the outbreak of warfare, and in 1352 the first public clock was to be hung on it, which testified to the great importance of the temple. In the Middle Ages, as a parish building, it was one of the main churches of the Riga bourgeoisie, and one of the older schools in the city was located next to it.
   
The construction of the original, early Gothic church was completed in the first half of the 13th century, probably around 1234. The second construction period was in the years 1408-1409, when the building master Johannes Rumeschottel from Rostock supervised the construction of the chancel, modeled after the St Mary church in Rostock. The work was coming to an end in 1409, but because of the Teutonic Order war with the Polish-Lithuanian state, the chancel was finally completed and put into use only in 1419. The next works were interrupted by the plague in 1420 and resumed in the 30s of the 15th century.
  
The 13th-century church nave was rebuilt in the years 1456-1466 to adapt it to the newly created presbytery. Both constructions were merged in 1470, creating a large basilica. In 1491, a 136-meter octagonal spire was added to the tower, which together with the front façade of the church, dominated the city. The tower collapsed in 1666, destroying the neighboring building and burying eight people in ruins. The new crowning of the tower was erected a year later.
  
The period of baroque reconstruction took place in the years 1671-1690, during which among other the west facade and the tower was transformed. However, the newly renovated building was burnt during the fire of 1721 and again during the Second World War in 1941. Securing the building and renovation began in 1954 and then continued in 1967-1983.

Architecture

   St. Peter’s church in its mature, late medieval form was a three-nave basilica with a polygonal chancel and an ambulatory. The west façade was crowned with a tower with a 136-meter high octagonal spire, flanked from the north and south by two annexes. It was probably planned to erect a transept, for which fragments of the wall toothing were left from the north and south, but the intention was never carried out. The nave of the building and the presbytery were wrapped from the outside with numerous, two-step buttresses and pierced with large, pointed windows. The interior of the church was decorated with stellar vaults with many different designs of stars, embedded mostly in the aisles of the nave and the central aisle of the choir, and cross-rib vaults in the central nave and aisles of the presbytery.

Current state

   St. Peter’s church in Riga is today one of the largest and most impressive medieval buildings in the city. Currently, the gothic look of the chancel with the ambulatory and the nave of the temple has been preserved. Noteworthy is also the raw interior of the church with stellar vaults. The west façade and the tower have a restored appearance from the times of the baroque reconstruction of the 17th century.

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bibliography:
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.