St. Peter's church

Livu Square

The Livs tribe was the largest in Latvia in ancient times; they lived on the banks of the Daugava long before the arrival of German Crusaders in the 12th century. According to one version the word Riga came from Livean “riga”, that means rye. The Riga River on which banks the city was built, was also called the Rye Way. The local residents carried along the Riga River the grain from the fields in the East to sell at the port of the Daugava, which used to be situated where the modern day bus station is.

Livu Square was formed after the demolition of buildings damaged during the bombings of World War II.

As far back as in the 16th century this place was crossed by the navigable Riga River, and along it ran the fortified City Wall. In 1735 the magistrate decided to bury the river, because it had turned into a fetid swamp where the townspeople would dispose of their rubbish. In the middle of 19th century was the river covered and turned into an underground channel. Later in 1861 the city walls were demolished and the river was completely filled up. Flower beds and waves on Livu square now mark the exact spot where the river flowed.  

Please pay attention to the house at the 20. Kaljkiu (lime) street. You can see a horseshoe nailed here on the wall of the third floor between the windows. They say this shoe broke away from the hooves of the Russian Tsar’s Peter the Great horse, when he rode through Riga. Tsar was so angry that he threw a shoe at the window on the third floor. The house owner rushed out,   but when he was faced by the Tsar he changed his mind immediately and decided to mount the horseshoe on the wall of his house for good luck.

On the right, where the Kaljkiu street crosses the Kaleju (Blacksmith) street, the Lime Tower stood in ancient times. In those days the basements of city fortification towers were used as prisons. But in the 16th century at the back of the Lime Tower a special building was constructed, which was called “a new prison” in the record books of 1696. The building near the present house on 7/9 Kaljkiu Street, carried out prison’s duties until the 18th century. In 1788 a house for the city police was built on the site of the prison. There in the basement of the building a part of the medieval prison remained.

Punishments of criminals were extremely harsh, especially from the second half of the 16th century.  Depending on how much fake money they produced, counterfeiters faced punishment ranging from hand amputation to death. Those who stole one grosz were hung, and those who stole less had an ear removed, branded by the thief sign on the body and drummed out of the city. The death penalty waited for traders cheating with the weight of goods, or for men tempted to somebody else’s wives. Although the latter crime could be paid off, if the offender paid to the guilty wife’s husband 10 silver marks. But a deceived husband could appeal for a prison sentence for his unfaithful wife. All the sentences were carried out by the city executioner who was on duty in the magistrate. The executioner was a respected position and only those who descended from Germans could obtain the post.

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