The Three Brothers are the set of three identical buildings located in front of you. The Three Brothers show different stages of development of residential buildings during the Medieval period. Houses of that time were built on very narrow grounds.
Original Riga was built of wood, and like many medieval towns burnt to the ground in a night. After fires the city would be rebuilt again soon after. Later in time they began to build stone houses, mostly in the Gothic style, but only when Rigans could afford it because of the trade and crafts that helped residents gain good incomes. In those days, the property tax was calculated on the basis of the house facade width, so the houses were built close very each other. If you look at Riga from a bird’s-eye view you will see long and narrow merchant houses behind the adjoined much later baroque and renaissance facades. Almost all Old Riga houses are typical medieval merchant houses where there was enough space for the family as well for shops, and warehouses.
The white building at 17. Maza Pils (Little Castle) street is the oldest stone building in Riga. It was built in the early 16th century. Please pay attention to the porch in front of the house - with benches and columns with the coat of arms of the house owner. This coat of arms served as home address. This building has just one large room with a high ceiling. This was a room to live, and work, to trade, and to store goods. The first brother is only original building in Riga that has the original chimney-kitchen left from the 15th century. You maybe wonder why this house has such small windows. Well, during its construction Riga magistrate imposed a new tax ... for light! The calculation was simple - the larger the house the more windows it has the more sun it takes away from the city. That’s one tax, at least, the Latvian government hasn’t thought about re-introducing... yet.
Adjacent houses are more modern than the First Brother. Number 19 was built in the middle of the 17th century, and its portal with the inscription in Latin: Soli deo gloria! (For the Glory of God Alone!) is even younger than house, by more 100 years. The building with the number 21 got its present-day appearance in the late 17th century. The mask at the entrance, according to the owner, guardppeareds against the evil spirits.
The Three Brothers were last renovated in 1957. In the process of restoration the courtyards of buildings were merged. If you go inside the courtyard you can see the portals of the ancient buildings buried inside the walls. The oldest Riga coat of arms can be seen there too.
The Latvian Museum of Architecture and the State Inspectorate for Protection of Cultural Monuments now have their headquarters here.
Maza Pils (Little Castle) Street, which is leading to the City Castle Square, a in the 13th century. Opposite to the Three Brothers, there is another old building - the former Riga Lyceum at 4 Maza pils. After the plague in 1675, the Swedish King Karl the 11th founded a new school here - Schola Carolina (Charles School). It was an elite school where the annual fee equaled the annual salary of a skilled worker. Students of this school would only eat with the silver spoons and had to change bed linen at least once a month. Did this increase the level of student knowledge? The history books don’t tell us.