You see a replica of the Stone Head before you which was found in 1851 by a farmer ploughing the earth between Salaspils and Ikshkile, about 30 kilometres downstream of the Daugava. A year later, the head together with other stones was carried to Riga stonemason. Fortunately the stonemason realized the discovery has historical value and gave it to the Riga society for historic and antiquity research, who transferred the head to the Dome museum.
In the late 19th century, when the landscaping works were carried out around the Cathedral, the stone idol was buried in the garden of Dome. The reason for this could be church’s intolerance to idols. During archaeological works in 2000 the Head was found again, and moved to the Riga museum of history.
It’s believed the stone head is a 5-6th century Livs idol but there’s no scientific evidence for this. One thing is clear, it’s very difficult to determine its exact age.
To the left of the Stone Head is the Cat’s House, on the roof you can see the cats peaking at their tails. The history of this house is closely intertwined with the history of the Small and Great Riga Guilds.
The Craft Guild in Riga emerged after the year 1221. Initially it combined all artisans of different crafts without exception.
The Guild of St. Mary, which is opposite the Cat’s house, was a place of meetings from Riga merchants association. The traders were rich, and therefore their house was supposed to be bigger and more opulent than Guild of St. John which was the house of Craftsmen Association. For this reason the Merchants house was called the Great Guild, and the Craftsmen house – the Small Guild. Artisans of Riga like those of other European cities assembled in the shops to protect their interests. The John the Baptist Sculpture, who was the patron of the Small Guild, adorns the facade of the building.
The Great Guild was founded in 1354 by the merchants who monopolized the trade in Riga until the 19th century. Its patroness was St.Mary. Despite repeated restructuring and renovations of the building, the Munster Hall with Gothic arches and the coats of arms of Hanseatic Cities painted on the walls are now restored to their original form.
It’s believed Germans in charge of the guild refused Latvians to participate in the Great Guild. The Cat’s House was built in 1910 by a Latvian merchant who grew rich after making a fortune from timber. His greatest desire was to become a member of the Great Guild, but as a Latvian he was refused. The merchant was so offended that he ordered a blacksmith to forge and install, on the roof of his house, 4 cats with their backs to the Great Guild. Their postures were designed to show the owner’s anger to the arrogant members of the Guild. The controversial cats led to a court trial where their owner was forced to rotate the cats. The timber merchant was never accepted into the Great Guilt but his story certainly lives on.
Not every house in the Old Town can be attributed to any particular style. The Cat’s House facade for example is generally constructed in medieval style, but you can see also decorative motifs of art nouveau here. The closer you get, the more you can appreciate the intricate design of the building.