Rīga Cathedral

Top choice church in Rīga

Image by Franz Marc Frei Getty Images

Founded in 1211 as the seat of the Rīga diocese, this enormous (once Catholic, now Evangelical Lutheran) cathedral is the largest medieval church in the Baltic. The architecture is an amalgam of styles from the 13th to the 18th centuries: the eastern end, the oldest portion, has Romanesque features; the tower is 18th-century baroque; and much of the rest dates from a 15th-century Gothic rebuilding.

During Soviet times services were forbidden, but the building, along with its huge 6768-pipe organ, built in 1884, underwent a careful reconstruction. It was used as a classical-music venue, which it very much remains now, although services have been resumed since the Lutheran archbishop of Latvia moved in.

The floor and walls of the huge interior are dotted with old stone tombs – note the carved symbols denoting the rank or post of the occupant. Eminent citizens would pay to be buried as close to the altar as possible. In 1709 the cholera and typhoid outbreak that killed a third of Rīga’s population was blamed on a flood that inundated the tombs, whereupon new burials were banned.


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