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St. James`s Cathedral

Location: N56° 57` 2.74", E24° 6` 16.09" | Website: jekabakatedrale.lv/

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Riga St. James’s church has been built in 1225. Historically it is the first Latvian congregation church in Riga. It is an important building both for the cultural environment of Riga and as the architectural monument, where many important monuments of the sacral arts in Latvia are saved. The building is also on the UNESCO list of world’s cultural heritage as an important architectural dominance in Riga historical centre.

The church was first mentioned in 1226, when an argument was settled with the Livonian Brothers of the Sword about the patron rights to the church. It is a monument of the early Gothic. The church was located outside of the Riga city walls until the end of the 13th century. 

In 1257 archbishop Albert II gave part of the St. James’s church yard to the newly founded Cistercian monastery until they were able to build their own church. They later built a Holy Mary Magdalena church at the end of the 13th century. 

As Rome Catholic church cathedral, St. James’s church together with the Holy Mary Magdalena church and the buildings of the curia and monastery are making the spiritual centre of this confession in Riga together with buildings of different catholic organizations. 

As any other church, St. James’s church was also constructed in several building steps. The oldest part of the church is an easement of altar in a rectangle form, which is covered with a cross valve and reflects the early Gothic dimensional structure principles. On the Western pediment by the roof slopes there are arches – still an example of the Romanesque architecture style. On the Northern part of the gable there is a smaller sacristy attached. Half-circle corbel in the tower’s façade, where the winding stairs are, also have ancient origin. The initial hall type church was rebuilt from the middle of the 13th century until the beginning of the 14th century. The middle area of the church is shorter than its side area, because half of it is occupied by the tower, which is included in the extent. The spatial structure of the church is very simple. 

It is mentioned that the church was rebuilt in 1482, making several new gables. 

In 17th century the chapel became church for the Swedish garrison, but in 1675 it was divided into two floors and a lyceum was formed there, named after the Swedish King Carl XI. In 1733 it was renewed as the Imperial lyceum.  

During the reformation time in 1524 the church experienced icon pogroms. In 1525 the first Lutheran congregation was organized under the roof of the church. In 1582 when Riga was exposed to Poland and after the request made by King Stephen Báthory, the town council gave the castle to Jesuits. In 1621, when Riga fell into regimen of Sweden, Jesuits were driven out of the city and the church became a Lutheran church for Swedes. After 1710 St. James’s church turns into Russian throne church of some time. 

During the Napoleon war in 1812, the church was taken by war instances and it was used as the food storehouse. 

During the church interior restoration in 1886, decorative painting was discovered under the whitewash layer on the gable valve, which could be dated back to the first part of the 15th century. The same painting composition is still adorning the valves even today.