St. Peter's church

Riga Dome

As late as the 19th century the square in front of Dome Cathedral was covered by houses. You can still find places in the cobbles where the buildings stood.  At the centre of the square is marked the point where if you stand, you can see all three gilded cocks on top of the Old City towers.

The Entrance to the Dome Cathedral from the side of the tower was built in the 19th century. Previously there were only entrances on the backsides of the building. The first stone in the foundation of the Dome was laid by Bishop Albert the founder of Riga, and after his death he was buried here. You can see also several grave plates in the walls and floor of the Cathedral left from 14-18th centuries when the city lords were buried here.

Around 1300 the cathedral’s construction was completed. Instead of the originally planned two towers only one was built due to financial restrictions. The 140-meter tower was the highest tower in Riga at that time, but by 1776 the wooden structure of the tower had rotted, and the spire started to bow in strong winds.   When the spire was rebuilt, the decision was taken to reduce its height to 90 meters.

During the Middle Ages it was agreed upon to put cocks on top of the towers across Europe. However the Dome Cathedral got a special one with one black side and the other one gold. The Dome Cock worked as a pointer showing the wind direction and his colourful sides had a purely practical point. When the people of Riga saw the golden cockerel, then it was a good day for the city and ships came for trading, but if the black cockerel turned to the city, the wind blew away from it, and no one ship could enter the port.

Despite the fact the cathedral was originally built on the hill, today its foundations lies a few meters below the street level. Because of the floods caused by the Daugava River and city fires, Riga has raised the level of the streets each year. But it did not always help and sometimes water would cover the floors in the Dome. You could even fish in the house of Dome Cathedral after a flood in 1709.

The Riga Dome organ was very famous in Europe in that time. Built in the 19th century in Germany it was the largest in Europe at that time. The sign at the Dome tells us that Riga is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is due to its medieval buildings, unique architecture, art nouveau and wooden buildings from the 19th century.

In 2005, the Dome Cathedral was included in the World Monuments Fund, but in 2006 it was added to the “World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites”.
On the left corner of the Dome Square you see Rosena Street, the narrowest street in the Riga. It’s so narrow that you can stretch out your arms and touch both sides. The street is paved in such a way, that the level of the pavement’s edges is higher than the middle. This was done to preserve the foundation of the buildings from rainwater. A legend tells the first streets of Riga had to the length of a spear.  But the craft merchants plied the responsible knight with alcohol to the point he was so drunk he rode down Rosena Street with his spear pointing downwards.

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