Riga Cathedral

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch
Riga, Latvia

Riga Cathedral, the centerpiece of Latvia’s capital city, was built in the early 13th century in the Romanesque style. In 1211, the church’s foundations were laid and its construction was consecrated by Bishop Albert of Riga, a main figure in the country’s conversion to Christianity. Gothic and Baroque elements were later added to the architectural scheme and the interiors were modified in the 17th century to conform to Lutheran traditions. Despite the fact that the main entrance was moved after a northern wing was constructed, the original layout of the cathedral remains in place. Coats of arms adorn the 14th-century columns that line the central nave and stained glass windows filter light from above. Beginning in 1955 the building was used as a museum and concert hall, but it resumed a religious role in 1991 and is now the Cathedral of the Archbishop of Latvia's Evangelic Lutheran Church.

2006 World Monuments Watch

In 2001, the Kress Foundation provided support to WMF to repair and conserve the cathedral’s portal. After the project’s completion, it was discovered that the church suffered from structural instability more generally than was thought, and in 2005 WMF dispatched a team to fully assess its condition. They found that many of the side aisle vaults had sustained cracks and were failing to bear the necessary load. Since 2004, parts of the church had been closed to the public because of these problems. WMF increased its commitment to the Riga Cathedral, placing the site on the 2006 Watch and securing additional funding from the Kress Foundation to support a structural monitoring operation by Riga Technical University, which aimed to find a solution to the cathedral’s instability. Emergency conservation was done on particularly damaged areas and the team continued to monitor the site, ensuring its safety.

Services are still held in Riga Cathedral and the building continues to participate in the cultural life of its congregants. It stands as an imposing presence in the historic district of Riga, an area which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Riga Cathedral, with its Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque influences, is a beautiful example of an evolving monument and an emblem of Latvia’s capital city.

Last updated: June 2018.

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