Great Cemetery

Riga, Latvia

The Great Cemetery (Latvian: Lielie kapi, German: Grosser Friedhof) was formerly the principal cemetery of Riga in Latvia, established in 1773. It was the main burial ground of the Baltic Germans in Latvia. Between 1771 and 1772, Catherine the Great, empress of the Russian Empire, decreed that from that point onwards no-one, regardless of their social standing or class origins, was to be buried in a church crypt or churchyard; all burials were to take place in the new cemeteries to be built throughout the entire Russian empire, which were to be located outside town boundaries.

Against this background the Great Cemetery in Riga was founded in 1773. It served as a burial ground for over 170 years for almost all Baltic Germans who died in the city between 1773 and 1944. Additionally, numerous Latvians of upper social status were buried there as well. The cemetery was divided into three section: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian. One of the first to be (re-)buried there was the founder of the city, Albert of Riga, whose remains were exhumed from one of the city's main churches and transferred to the cemetery in 1773.

Burials at the cemetery were drastically reduced after Hitler's forced transfer, under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, of tens of thousands of Baltic Germans from Latvia in late 1939 to occupied areas in western Poland. Burials at the cemetery continued on a much smaller scale until 1944, principally among those Baltic Germans who had refused Hitler's call to leave the region.

After World War II hundreds of headstones and graves were removed or destroyed by the Soviet authorities during the second occupation of the Baltic states. In 1957 the cemetery was closed completely for any further burials and began to fall in disrepair. In 1967 or 1969 the city council decided to bulldoze large sections of the cemetery in order to transform it into a public memorial Park. The Russian Orthodox section of the cemetery, later named Pokrov Cemetery, is the only area which was not added to the territory of the Memorial Park and therefore was the only part to remain well preserved.

Today a significant number of Baltic German and Latvian graves and family plots, including a restored crypt built in 1777 and the graves of Krišjānis Baronsand Krišjānis Valdemārs, have survived the post-war destruction. However, many of these graves are in an abandoned or neglected condition. The city of Riga is currently discussing exchanging St Peter's Church for the Great Cemetery so that the city can properly take over maintenance.

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Address

Indrānu iela 24, Riga, Latvia
See all sites in Riga

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Damian Dessler (2 years ago)
Really big and old cemetry which is nie a Park. There are a lot of old graves.
Dan RaizPhoto (2 years ago)
Very interesting place. The cemetery was founded in 1773. Many famous Latvian public figures and cultural figures were buried here. At present it is a memorial park. While here there is complete chaos, empty crypts and burials, between them the paths along which people walk. Who likes the unusual, come))). #localguides
Olga Grygarova (3 years ago)
This is old cementary with some leftovers of previous century monuments. It is quite contrasty.. if that would be kept in proper way, could be interesting place to visit ans to feel touch of history.
Ivars Dimdiņš (3 years ago)
One of the oldest and formerly largest cemeteries of Riga, dating back to 1780s. Almost all of the burial sites were destroyed by the Soviets in the 1960s, but what is left behind is mostly being cared after by volunteers and it is slowly regaining it's old glory.
Mairita Vimba (3 years ago)
Great to walk around but no infrastructure there
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