Religious sites in Latvia

St. Peter's Church

First record of the St. Peter's Church dates back to 1209. The church was a masonry construction and therefore undamaged by a city fire in Riga that year. The history of the church can be divided into three distinct periods: two associated with Gothic and Romanesque building styles, the third with the early Baroque period. The middle section of the church was built during the 13th century, which encompasses the first peri ...
Founded: 1209 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Riga Cathedral

Riga Cathedral is the Protestant cathedral in Riga, Latvia. Built near the River Daugava in 1211 by Livonian Bishop Albert of Riga, it is considered the largest medieval church in the Baltic states. It has undergone many modifications in the course of its history. Certainly one of the most recognisable landmarks in Latvia, the Cathedral is featured in or the subject of paintings, photographs and television travelogues. A ...
Founded: 1211 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. John's Church

St. John's Church was built in the 13th century, probably between 1234-1297. It was originally home of the Dominican monks, but over the centuries fell into the possession of the Lutherans. It has also served as an arsenal for the city. The most notable features of this unheralded church are the impressive 15th century sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul which adorn the the 18th century altar. According the legend two m ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. James's Cathedral

St. James's Cathedral, or the Cathedral Basilica of St. James is dedicated to Saint James the Greater. It is frequently referred to by the name St. Jacob because Latvian, like many other languages, uses the same name for James and Jacob. The church building was dedicated in 1225. It was not originally a cathedral since the Rīgas Doms served that function. At the beginning of the 15th century the Holy Cross Chapel wa ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Reformation Church

Built from 1727-1733, this is one of the few Calvinist churches in Latvia. After renovations in 1805, its basement was turned into a warehouse, while the Soviets turned the whole building into a recording studio. Now the upstairs is used for occasional concerts and the downstairs is waiting for yet another entrepreneur to open a club there.
Founded: 1727-1733 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. Saviour's

This little church commissioned by British traders living in Riga was built in 1857 on a shipload of English soil specially imported from the UK. Consecrated in 1859, the church was only full when British warships visited Latvia. Transformed into a student disco during Soviet times, it is once again a place of worship which is attended by Riga's English-speaking expat population. Its pastor and his dedicated flock are als ...
Founded: 1857-1859 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Nativity of Christ Cathedral

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral (Kristus Piedzimšanas pareizticīgo katedrāle) was built to a design by Nikolai Chagin in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. It is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces built with the blessing of the Russian Tsar Alexander II on the initiative of local governor-general Pyotr Bagration and bishop ...
Founded: 1876-1883 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

The original church that once stood here was destroyed when the entire area was razed in 1812 to deprive Napoleon’s army of shelter. The army took a different route. Fortunately, some of the historic icons were saved and now adorn the walls of the current yellow wooden church that was built in 1818. Although it looks like it’s falling apart on the outside its simple interior is still worth a quick peek.
Founded: 1818 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Old St. Gertrude's Church

The monumental neo-Gothic church was consecrated in 1869. This red brick masterpiece topped with a green copper spire was designed by one of the city’s most prolific architects, J.D. Felsko. Unfortunately, some of its decorative ornaments cast in concrete are now in a sad state and hang precariously above passers-by. Many of the art nouveau buildings surrounding the church are also worth a look.
Founded: 1869 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Church

Construction of this Classicist wooden building began in 1820 and was completed five years later. In 1862 its eclectic-style belfry was added. Yellow and round with a large green dome, it’s hard to miss it on the corner of Brīvības and Blaumaņa. Inside you’ll find three porticoes, beautiful icons and, unusually, a central altar in the middle of the room.
Founded: 1820-1825 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. John's Church

St. John's Lutherans Church is one of the oldest medieval architectural monuments in Latvia and the largest medieval basilica outside Riga. The Church was built in 13th century under the Livonian Order by the second Riga Archbishop Johann von Luves. Cesis became one of the most important German centres from 1237 to 1561. In the 16th century St. John's Church survived a few changes. First at the beginning it was devastate ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Cēsis, Latvia

St. Simon's Lutheran Church

Built in 1238, St. Simon`s Lutheran Church has still preserved its medieval appearance. The church has burial plaques of notable city dwellers from the 15th to 16th century, a pipe organ (1886) and paintings on the pulpit and the organ lofts (1730). The viewing platform of the church tower provides a panoramic view of Valmiera.
Founded: 1238 | Location: Valmiera, Latvia

St. Catherine's Church

St Catherine"s Church was originally built in 1252. However, it was later rebuilt with baroque style wood carvings on the altar. In this church Duke Jacob was baptized and later married to Princess Louisa Charlotte from Brandenburg. The church was given the name of St Catherine, the patroness of the town.
Founded: 1252 | Location: Kuldīga, Latvia

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church

Although an older church dating back to 1453 once stood here, the current 17th-century Russian baroque-style building was completed in 1893. Designed in the shape of the Orthodox cross, its soaring belfry and blue and green onion domes can be seen from quite a distance. Inside you’ll find the smell of incense and hundreds of icons common to Orthodox churches.
Founded: 1893 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Aglona Basilica

At the end of the 17th century, the Dominican Order established a monastery in Aglona and built the first wooden church. After the church burnt down in 1699, a stone monastery building and the present church were built in its place in 1768-1780. The interior of the shrine was created in the 18th-19th century, but the pulpit, the organ, and the confessional were built at the end of the 18th century. The church houses an e ...
Founded: 1768-1780 | Location: Aglona, Latvia

St. Simeon’s and St. Anna’s Orthodox Cathedral

St. Simeon’s and St. Anna’s Orthodox Cathedral was designed by architect N. Chagin and built during 1890-1892, with the financial support of Russian Czar Alexander III. The altar and foundation remained from the previous church which was built in 1774 after the design of architect F.B. Rastrelli. It was devastated in WWII and renovated between 1993 and 2003.
Founded: 1890-1892 | Location: Jelgava, Latvia

Talsi Lutheran Church

On the steep Church Hill of Talsi rising above the old town stands the white-stone Church of Talsi – built in 1567 and reconstructed numerous times. In the course of several centuries its architecture was shaped by Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. Its history is reflected both in the architectural planning and in the facade structure of the building, providing an insight into the architectural fashion of ...
Founded: 1567 | Location: Talsi, Latvia

St. John's Church

St.John's church was dedicated on August 27, 1900 after the long history before. The first wooden church was built in 1461, the next, also made of wood, was built in 1530 and renovated in 1567. The masonry church was built in 1614-1615 and financed by Wilhelm Duke. The fifth church in Saldus was built in 1737 on the hill where the present church stands. It was reconstructed in 1825. In 1898 the old church was torn down. ...
Founded: 1900 | Location: Saldus, Latvia

Grebenshchikov Church

The first wooden place of worship was built here in 1760, and the current building was completed in 1814. It is home to one of the largest congregations of Old Believers in the world (about 10,000), an Orthodox Christian sect that fled persecution in Russia in the 17th century.
Founded: 1760-1814 | Location: Riga, Latvia

St. Anne’s Church

St. Anne’s Lutheran Church is one of the largest and certainly the oldest church in Liepaja. First written references about this church were found in documents dated in 1508. Initially wooden St. Anne’s Church was built by the Master of Livonian Order and was located elsewhere in Liepaja. Construction works of the wooden church were finished in 1587. In the 17th century, the wooden church was bordered with bri ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Liepāja, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.