Saint Peter's Church (Riga)

Saint Peters Cathedral Riga


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Tel. 2722 9426

Open: 10am- 5pm; Closed on Mondays


Description of the Saint Peter's Cathedral

Riga Saint Peter's Cathedral Riga Saint Peter's Cathedral

St. Peter's Church in Riga (German: Petrikirche) is the highest church in Riga, as well as a remarkable Gothic-style 13th-century architectural monument of national importance, located at Reformation Square 1 in Old Riga. Peter's Church tower was the tallest wooden building in Europe until the Second World War.

It was first mentioned in the writings in 1209, but from the 13th century, the outer walls of the side areas of the current building and some pillars in the interior have been preserved. Until 1524, it was a Roman Catholic church, but from 1526 to 1940 it was the Riga Lutheran St. Peter's German parish church, since 1991, Peter's church has been the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Riga St. Peter's Church Lutheran Church.



Peter's Church was first mentioned in writings in 1209 in the contract between Bishop Albert and King Visvaldi of Jersika - it was built as a place of worship for merchants and a meeting place. In the 15th century, the church was significantly supplemented (altar part, vaults were added, the 136-meter high tower was completed in 1491). The first public clock in Riga was installed in the tower of St. Peter's Church in 1352. A watchman stood in the church tower to warn of impending danger to the city or fire.

1408-1409 built a new altar with a semicircular aisle and five chapels, creating a three-bay basilica. Its altar part after Rostock St. St. Mary's Church was built in the High Gothic style under the direction of Johan Rumeshotel, a master builder invited from there. The reconstruction and expansion of the church continued throughout the 15th century, especially in the second half of the century (a new pyramidal tower was built in 1456-1491).

In 1524, the church suffered heavily in the so-called vandalism of holy images - a Lutheran crowd invaded Riga churches, vandalizing them. The riots were started by the blackheads of Riga, who St. In Peter's church, he smashed his altar, then the other altars, wall decorations, and holy pictures. The altarpiece of the church chapel, painted by Albrecht Dürer, was also burned. In November 1524, the Rāte of Riga forbade religious services to be held in the church and confiscated its property. After the Catholic population was expelled from the city, the building was handed over to the Lutheran congregation.

On March 11, 1666, the more than 130 m high tower built in 1491 collapsed in a storm after being struck by lightning. 1671-1690 In the 1970s, the church was rebuilt under the leadership of builders Ruperts Bindenshu and J. Josten, building the main facade, the western facade with baroque style portals. In 1721, lightning struck the tower again, a big fire broke out, flames engulfed the entire building, and the tower collapsed again. Towers 1743-1746. was rebuilt in its current form in the 1960s, and its height was 120.7 meters. Johann Gottfried Müthel, the last student of J.S. Bach, worked as the church organist from 1767 to 1788.

Until the 1773 law, the building also served as a burial place. Only between 1701 and 1773, 3,576 people were buried in the church vaults and garden cemetery. Until 1940, it was registered in the Department of Churches and Confessions of the Ministry of the Interior of Latvia as a congregation of the Union of German Evangelical Lutheran Churches, practically all members of which left the territory of Latvia during the war years.

Peter's church suffered heavily in the battle for Riga on June 29, 1941, when the tower, the roof of the building collapsed during the fire, and the facade of the church was badly damaged. After the war, the building remained the property of the state, not allowing any congregation of believers to enter it.

By order of the Government of the LPSR 1954-1984. the church was restored in 1954: the restoration of the church started in 1954, first by restoring the gabled roof, and in 1967 by starting the reconstruction of the unique tower (1968-1973). The current tower is 123.25 meters high and consists of metal structures, it has a built-in elevator that takes visitors to a height of 72 m. The restoration of the tower was completed on June 29, 1973, the same date it died 32 years ago. The building was equipped with an exhibition and concert hall, a museum, as well as an observation tower from which people could observe the Riga panorama. The Architecture and Urban Planning Propaganda Center was located in Eka.

In 1975, the tower clock brought from Armenia was started, and in 1976, the bell game was started, which plays the melody of the Latvian folk song "Rīga dimd" 5 times a day. Peter's Church was completely restored in 1983, but the restoration work continued in later years as well. Restored tombs, including the Baroque tomb of the Blue Civil Guard. They installed the ancient wood-carved epitaphs, which had been taken to Poland during the German-Baltic exodus and were preserved there. On August 21, 1995, St. A plaque dedicated to the restorers of St. Peter's Church. Funds for the construction of the pulpit were donated by the German-White support group (Förderkreis). In 1997, the stained glass windows of E. Todes were restored in the sacristy (artist I. Kārkluvalka), the walls were covered with restored Dutch tiles (ceramists I. Pētersone, D. Zvanītāja, I. Vipule).


Legal status

On June 29, 1991, religious services were resumed in the church, but the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church (LELB) started negotiations with the state about taking ownership of the building.

The religious activities of St. Peter's Church is governed by the "Law on Religious Organizations" and other regulatory acts. It is used as a cult building, a venue for concerts, thematic exhibitions on the development of the city and architecture, art exhibitions, cultural events, as well as an international cultural tourism object that is available to visitors on a daily basis. The building and the land around it are the property of the city of Riga. Currently, the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of St. Peter uses several church premises free of charge, but the Latvian state continues to finance the research, conservation and restoration works of the church.


Tower roosters

Flat weather vanes, also with the silhouette of a rooster, are among the oldest northern European wind indicators - flags and belong to the group of so-called dragon flags. The principle of the dragon flag: the weathervane is located on one side of the mast (flagpole). If the "flag" is formed by the silhouette of a rooster, then it looks downwind. Peter's Church has two wind vanes made as dragon flags. They are located in the eastern part of the building - one at the end of the roof of the middle area above the apse, the other - above the sacristy. Both are the same and depict St. Peter walking with a key in his hands. The stair turrets are also decorated with flags, one of which has the year number "1723" cut out. Church towers were not only crowned with a rooster, usually the end of the tower was complemented by a ball installed right at the tip of the spire. It is possible that this element of decoration initially had only a decorative role, but later it became a storage for memorial articles. Scrolls with information about the history of the building and the builders were placed in the orb.

Peter's Church, since the construction of its Gothic tower in the 15th century, has had seven wind indicators - roosters.
In 1491, after the completion of the tower, the first rooster was installed. In 1538, when the tower was sheathed with copper plates, this rooster was restored and put back on the spire in the same year. In 1576, a strong storm bent the rooster, so it was removed.
On July 13, 1577, the Free City of Riga installed the second rooster. On October 4, 1577, an unusually strong wind blew it off the tower.
On July 11, 1578, a new ball, rod and third cock were put on. It was the flying rooster depicted in Mollīn's panorama of Riga in 1612.
In 1651, during the Swedish Vidzeme era, after 73 years of service, it was badly damaged and removed, and on May 14 of the same year, a large gilded fourth rooster was put on it. On November 17, 1659, a strong storm at eight in the morning tore it off the pole together with the bullet and threw it into the church yard.
On July 26, 1660, a gilded fifth rooster was placed in the tower, which was located on the spire of the tower until its collapse in 1666. In 1688, Rupert Bindenschu asked the council what to install in the spire of the Peter's church - a star, as envisaged in Josten's project, or a rooster. Two months later, he showed off a model of the tower, decorated with the city's small coat of arms, two keys, a cross and the ruler's crown. At the very top of the spire was a rooster. Rathe did not accept it, but instructed to make a new model, which would be crowned only by a bullet and a rooster. Bindenschu produced a drawing of a rooster standing on the tip of a spire. In the final version, which was accepted by the council, it was intended to put a crouching rooster on the pole.
On May 10, 1690, from eight to nine in the morning, the sixth rooster was placed in the tower. During the siege of Riga in 1709, the bent cock's tail was repaired.
On October 9, 1746, Johan Wilbern put the ball and rooster restored after the fire of 1721 on the spire. They were strung on the rod of the previous tower, which, after being straightened and corrected, was again built into the structure of the new tower.
On June 29, 1941, during the battle for Riga, a rooster, a bullet and a rod fell to the ground as the burning wooden tower fell. They were searched for and preserved in the rubble. Now the rooster and orb have been restored and displayed in St. Peter's Church. On the other hand, the rod has been built into the end of the tower for the third time.
On August 21, 1970, the seventh rooster was installed in the restored tower, which is an exact copy of the previous one. The gilded rooster weighs 158 kg, is 2.10 m long from chest to tip of tail, and 1.53 m high from the top of the sextet to the bottom of the belly. The rooster and the ball below it are made of copper tin covered with very thin gold plates, 140 grams of gold used.
In 2009, the rooster was restored, after the restoration it was again placed in the spire of the tower.