Saint Roland Statue (Riga)

Statue of Saint Roland Riga


Old Town Rātslaukums, Town Hall Square


Description of Statue of Saint Roland

Statue of Saint Roland, patron saint of Riga, stands near House of Blackheads and city Town Hall. It was erected in 1897. However current figure is a copy. The original is kept at the Saint Peter's Cathedral. In the Middle Ages, Statues of Saint Roland were erected as a sign of bourgeois freedom and an expression of the economic prosperity of the city. In addition to the statues expressly designated as Roland, similarly designed knight figures emerged as a symbol of the civil liberties defended or at least claimed by the citizens. It was the identity of a city with its own jurisdiction. The glory was based on the Hruotland fate, which was under Charles the Great in Counties in Breton. Roland fell into the battle against the Basques under Count Lupus in the Pyrenees in the valley of Roncesvalles on August 15, 778.


History and features
Sculpture of Roland, made of stone or wood, was found in the Middle Ages mainly in the cities of Northern Germany, which had concluded agreements of mutual trade and economic cooperation and gradually formed the Hanseatic League. Riga joined this union at the end of the 13th century as an important and influential trading outpost of the Livonian Confederation, but it is difficult to say how many wooden sculptures of Roland were in the city's commercial district during the medieval period. It is only known that in 1474 the Riga City Council commissioned the woodcarver Jēkabs to create a new statue in the place of the previous one, as evidenced by the records of the city chronicle. It is the first surviving documentary mention of the statue of Roland in Riga. The Rolands in Riga and other Hanseatic cities often came to the tree with a request for help, holy protection, with prayers for health, profit and successful trade, as well as with the hope of finding a fair trial.

Versions of the origin
The exact origin and meaning of the statue of Roland is unknown, but there are several versions about the formation of the image of Roland in the cultural space of the European Middle Ages. Some researchers associate this statue with the personality of the legendary knight Roland, the nephew of Emperor Charlemagne. The statues of Roland that adorned the commercial districts of medieval Hanseatic cities are said to have symbolized the free market, the independence of the city council, which held supreme judicial and commercial rights, and the priority of secular institutions over religious institutions.

Roland's sword was an allegory of justice and indicated the inevitability of revenge.

Installation of a stone statue of Roland
Roland's statue was installed in Town Hall Square as a symbolic decoration of the artesian well. It was the geometric center of Riga; The tip of Roland's sword traditionally marked the point of intersection of the coordinates. The new statue replaced the previous one, made of wood, which had already deteriorated by then. Apparently, the installation of Roland's new statue between the Riga City Hall and the House of the Black Men at the end of the 19th century was intended to emphasize the conditional historical dominance of German culture in the Baltic Sea region with a special "confrontation of monuments".

Partial destruction and restoration
During the Battle of Riga in 1941, the sculpture was damaged by artillery fire. In 1970, its partial restoration was carried out by the Estonian sculptor Marija Ehelaide, who also participated in the restoration of the sculptural ensemble of the portals of St. Peter's Church. Later, in 1984, the sculpture was given to the Riga Architecture and Urban Planning Promotion Center, which was located in the restored Peter's Church, where the sculpture is still located today.

Making a copy
In May 1999, a copy of the sculpture of Roland by Edvīnas Krūmins was installed on a specially made pedestal. Thus, there are two statues of Roland in Riga (the original is in St. Peter's Church, the copy is in the center of Rātslaukumas). It should be noted that Riga's Roland statue is the most northerly in Europe (the southernmost Roland statue in Europe is in Dubrovnik, Croatia). This copy is an artistic monument of local importance.