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When speaking about Riga, the capital of Latvia, there are things and places within the city which stand above the rest. One of them and unique only to Riga is the city’s silhouette. It is dominated by many churches whose towers reach to the sky and whose golden roosters perched atop of the church spires are very well-known symbols of Riga and by other impressive structures. Those which make up the panorama are the following:
Saint Peter's Church
Saint Peter's Church (13–20 centuries) is located at Skarnu Street 19. Its Baroque-style tower was constructed by Ruperts Bindensu from Strasbourg and at one time was the tallest wood construction in Europe. The tower was destroyed during WWII and was renewed as a metal construction in the 20th century. Today, one can go to the top of the tower for a panoramic view.
Riga Dom Cathedral
Riga Dom Cathedral (13–19th centuries) towers over Dom Square. It is the farthest cathedral in Northern Europe with a cross gallery. It was renovated at the end of the 19th century and a statue was set up commemorating Riga’s founder Bishop Albert. Since the 1960s, the cathedral has also been used as a concert hall with 1,500 seats. The E.F. Walcker & Co.Organ (1884) was once the largest in the world.
St. Jacob’s Roman Catholic Cathedral
St. Jacob’s Roman Catholic Cathedral (13th–18th centuries) is the fourth largest church in Old Town. Since the Latvian language uses the same name for James and Jacob, this cathedral is also called St. James’s Cathedral, or the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, and is dedicated to Saint James the Greater. The church building was dedicated in 1225. It is located at Jekaba (Jacob’s) Street 9.
Riga Castle at Castle Square 3. Since 1918, it is the residence of Latvia’s presidents. In 1938, architect Eizens Laubers constructed the Three Star Tower, which is part of Latvia’s coat of arms and symbolizes three Latvian regions—Vidzeme, Kurzeme, and Latgale.
Town Hall (1750 1765; 2000–2003) at Town Hall Square 1. This building was severely damaged during WWII and was knocked down. In its place was built the Rigas Polytechnical Institution’s Laboratory Building. At the end of the 20th century, Town Hall was rebuilt to look just as it did in the 19th century.
St. Savior’s Anglican Church
St. Savior’s Anglican Church (1852-1859) at Anglikanu (Anglican) Street 2a. This church was built in the neo-Gothic style and had a congregation of English people who lived in Riga and English sailors. To build it, bricks, stones, and even earth were brought from England. In the 1970s, the church became a club for students from Riga Polytechnical Institution and was once again used as a church from 1992.
St. Mary Magdalene’s Roman Catholic Church
St. Mary-Magdalene’s Roman Catholic Church (13th–17th centuries) at Klostera (Cloister) Street 2. The beginnings of this church lie in the foundation of the Cistern Cloister. It is said that the church was named after Liv Chief Kaupo’s granddaughter Magdalene, who donated money to have it built.
The Church of the Sorrowful Virgin
The Church of the Sorrowful Virgin at Pils (Castle) Street 5. The church was built in 1785 in the place where the original moat was that once separated Riga Castle from the rest of the city.
St. John’s Lutheran Church
St. John’s Lutheran Church (14th–17th centuries) at Jana (John) Street 7. This is the oldest Lutheran church in Riga. It consists of two parts: one built in Gothic style and one in the Renaissance. The altar was built in 1759 in Rococo style. The church has a cross-shaped window which tells the tale of two fanatical monks who, in the 15th century, were interred alive in a wall, leaving a narrow opening through which they were fed bread. When the monks no longer made any sound, the opening was closed.
Latvian Academy of Sciences
Latvian Academy of Sciences at Academy Square 1.
Together, all of the above-mentioned churches and buildings make up the so familiar and unique Riga skyline.