St John’s Church

Old Rīga

A 13th- to 19th-century amalgam of Gothic and baroque styles, the church was first mentioned when the citizens installed catapults on its roof and successfully dispersed attacking Livonian knights. Initially run by Dominican monks, it was pillaged during the reformation. After a stint as stables and granary, it was handed over to the Lutherans, who remain in control. Next to the church, an archway leads into Jāņa sēta (St John's courtyard), which contains the preserved remains of a 13th-century monastery wall.

It was here that Bishop Albert von Buxhoevden, who founded Rīga in 1201, set up his residence. So if you are looking for the city's exact birthplace, it is about the first spot that comes to mind. Note the curving lines above the red-brick gates – they are said to depict the back of the donkey that drove Jesus into Jerusalem. The gist of it is – follow the Christ.

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