Old Town of Riga (World Heritage)

By | August 27, 2021

According to extrareference, the foundation of Riga in 1201 goes back to Bishop Albert I von Buxhövden. The later Hanseatic city of Riga is the second oldest city to be founded on the Baltic Sea after Lübeck. The old town documents the long history of the Hanseatic city, which is also known for its Art Nouveau buildings, wooden houses and fortifications. The center of the historic town center is the market square with the town hall, the house of the Blackheads and the Roland column. The cathedral was built in the 13th century.

Old Riga: Facts

Official title: Historic city center of Riga
Cultural monument: Old town with the cathedral and episcopal tombs such as those for Bishop Berthold (d. 1198), the Petrikirche and the Johanniskirche, the Eckens convent, the Dannenstern house, the “Three Brothers” ensemble, the Sweden Gate, the only still preserved city gate in Riga, and the Art Nouveau buildings in Alberta iela, Albertstraße, such as No. 7/9 based on a design by Alfred Aschenkampff
Continent: Europe
Country: Latvia
Location: Riga
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: in the former Hanseatic city the most important concentration of Art nouveau buildings in Europe

Old town of Riga: history

1198 first documentary mention of the city
1209 first mention of the Petrikirche
1211 Start of construction of the cathedral
1282 Joins the Hanseatic League
1297 first mention of the Johanniskirche
1415 Mention of the oldest house from the “Three Brothers” ensemble
1547 Big city fire
1582-89 Reconstruction of the Church of St. John
1667-94 Reconstruction of the Church of St. Peter
1694-95 Construction of the Dannenstern house
05/10/1721 Lightning strike in the tower of the Petrikirche, which then burns to the ground
1733 Consecration of the Reformed Church
1899 first building in Art nouveau style on Albertstrasse (Alberta iela)
1953-58 Restoration of the “Three Brothers” ensemble
since 1991 Riga again the capital of independent Latvia
1999 True to the original reconstruction of the magnificent House of the Blackheads, built in 1334 and destroyed in the war, on the town hall square on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the city
2010 Appointment of Riga as European Capital of Culture 2014 (with Umeå)

“Riga, which has long been famous, I saw you: mountains of sand all around, Riga itself is in the water.”

Riga has held a prominent position in Europe for eight centuries and is the center of the country’s economy and culture. Literature and art provide information about the legendary founding of the city. In one of the popular folk tunes one hears the verses.

Riga is mentioned in the Indrikus Chronicle as early as 1198. According to my historian, the beginning of the settlement probably goes back to the 10th to 11th centuries. However, the year 1201 is considered the official year of the city’s foundation, which is associated with the name of the Bremen canon Albert. A typical Hanseatic city developed over the course of the city’s history. The silhouette of the old town is determined by the expanse of the Daugava and the towering medieval towers. The medieval heart of the city has expanded over the centuries with the aesthetics of an architecture that embraces the Romanesque as well as the postmodern. Art nouveau, which you will not find anywhere else in the world in this form, as well as medieval architecture and that of the 19th century, is a defining feature of the cityscape: They all reflect the creative human spirit in their own way as masterpieces. The city is like an open-air museum, to which each epoch has added something characteristic – instead of standing still, striving for development. This is expressed in numerous significant buildings of unique value. These include the cathedral with the monastery buildings and the cloister, the construction of which began in 1211 and ended with the church tower built in Baroque style, the church of St. John with its Renaissance design, the church of St. Peter from the 13th century, its wooden one The tower built at the time of its completion was the tallest of its kind in Europe at more than 120 meters. Not to be forgotten are the “Three Brothers” ensemble in Gothic and Baroque styles, the German Theater built in 1863.

The respect for the cultural heritage of past generations has been characteristic of urban development for centuries. An old legend tells that Riga will sink in the floods of the Daugava as soon as the city is completed, and the residents of the Latvian metropolis always remember this tradition.

The city’s orientation towards Western Europe came in the early Middle Ages with the German settlers, whose influence was diminished over the centuries by Poles, Swedes and Russians. Due to its geographical location, Riga has always been an important and growing center of industry and trade. As a member of the Hanseatic League, the city was part of a European trade network. But it was also an important center of science and culture. Famous musicians such as Franz von Liszt, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner found a grateful audience for their music within Riga’s walls.

Riga, to be compared with the melodious sound of music, has retained human dimensions: the city is green, flowed through by playful Art Nouveau and has remained livable thanks to the harmonious juxtaposition of different architectural styles, and the old town is a pearl of urban architecture: a city that can be understood that is valued and carefully preserved.

Old Town of Riga (World Heritage)