St. Peter's church

Castle Square

In 1297 the Riga citizens destroyed “Wittenstein” - the first Castle of the Livonian Order. In 30 years the New Riga Castle raised on this place. Thus it was build behind the city walls it had very good location. It was simple from here to control the ships coming to Riga. The construction of the castle was ended in the middle of 14th century and up to 1470 it was the centre of government of the Livonian Order’s lands.  

In 1484 Riga citizens besieged the castle again and in 2 months exhausted by hunger and diseases, the defenders of the castle were compelled to lay down arms. The castle was totally destroyed and the bricks from it were sent to Hanseat cities for the edification. Only the Tower of the Holy Spirit was left as a beacon for ships. In 7 years the Livonian Order in return besieged Riga city walls and the master of the Order Walter von Plettenberg compelled Rigans to build a new Castle that was finished in 1515.

After the abolition of the Order in 1562, the castle lost its importance as a separate fortification and it was included in the common defence system of the city. At the beginning of the 18th century the defensive ditch was filled in, and 100 years later the area in front of the castle was cleared.

Major reconstruction work occurred during 18th to 19th centuries. In the 1920’s the tower of the Three Stars was built, and the interior in front of the castle was transformed to meet the tastes of the President of the State. In 1988 the flag of independent Latvia was raised above the tower of the Holy Spirit, and since 1995 the castle once again became the residence of the President of Republic of Latvia. Today the museum of Latvian history, Museum of the Foreign Art, and Museum of Literature and Art are also working in the premises of the castle.

During the last 100 years the only major alteration to the appearance of the area was the planting of the trees on the Castle Square. In the 18th century the former residence of Russia’s general governor began to make a new area around the Riga Castle. The aim was to create a symbol representing the greatness of the Russian Empire. First of all, civilian buildings were demolished to open space between the castle and town, and then a number of public buildings were built on the cleared land. One of them was the Church of the Sorrowful Mother of God belonging to the Catholic community on 5. Pils (castle) street.

The Tsar of Russia Peter the Great arrived in Riga in 1710 and gave the freedom of faith to the Catholics. Jesuits were allowed to come to Riga to hold worship services in a new church. It should be noted that due to the fact that most of Latvia’s population professed Lutheranism, the city council at that time actively interfered with the construction carried out by the Catholic Church. The exception was a small wooden chapel in a remote part of Riga suburbs, where the Catholic cemetery was later made. Catholic priests were able to move for permanent residence in the city only after the conclusion of a treaty of peace. The Church of Sorrowful Mother of God was founded in 1784 and finished in 1 year. It became the first Catholic Church after the Reformation came to Latvia.

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