54
When viewing the Riga skyline you will notice that the tops of Riga’s oldest churches – Dome Cathedral, St. Peter’s, St. John’s and St. Jacob’s host a rooster (in the form of a weather vane) and not a cross. This is an old tradition, especially popular in Riga and Latvia more generally.

The rooster has been seen as a vigilant defender against evil since pagan times. In Christian times, those familiar with the Last Supper, the meal Jesus had with his twelve disciples on the night he was betrayed, will recall Christ’s prediction, in relation to Simon-Peter, – ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice’: (John 13:38). Christ was indeed denied by Peter in the hours of evil, before the cock crowed. Riga’s roosters are placed as high as they are such that all can ‘hear their song’ and know that the hours of evil have passed.

55The roosters on the church steeples did also have a more earthly use, they served as wind indicators providing important information in a seaport, like Riga.

For some reason the good people of St Peter’s have had great difficulties, over the year’s, keeping their rooster on top of the church.

Between the 15th century and today St Peter’s church has sported 7 roosters atop its tower/steeple. Most of the first six roosters simply fell off, albeit not in tranquil conditions.

Rooster 1 – Mounted in 1491 – Irreparably damaged in a storm
Rooster 2 – Mounted in 1577 – Blown down from the steeple
Rooster 3 – Mounted in 1578 – Removed because off storm damage
Rooster 4 – Mounted in 1651 – Fell down during a storm
Rooster 5 – Mounted in 1660 – Collapsed killing 6 people
Rooster 6 – Mounted in 1690 – Restored 1709 and 1746. Blown off (with the steeple) on 29 June 1941 – ironically, St Peter’s Day – by a WWII bomb.

Rooster 6, which was subsequently restored, can be seen inside the church today (main picture).

Rooster 7 – Mounted in 1970 – ???

Given this trail of misfortune, tradition has demanded that when St Peter’s rooster is restored or replaced the construction foreman must sit on its back, consume a glass of wine and drop the glass to the ground. The number of fragments into which the glass breaks indicates the number of years the rooster will remain on his perch.

Following the 1746 restoration Johann Willburn dropped his glass and it fell into a passing hay cart and did not break at all. The city’s inhabitants thenceforth feared that the rooster’s falling was imminent. It actually remained aloft for the longest period ever, until 1941. My reader should be aware, and take whatever precaution he or she deems prudent, that when the architect of the 1970 replacement dropped his glass it broke into immeasurable specks of dust.

In addition to informing my reader, I like to offer practical advice as well. Should the current rooster (which was, incidentally, taken down and gilded in gold to mark the 800th anniversary of St Peter’s in 2009) fall on you and you do not instantly die from its 158kg weight, forget about the rooster and grab the gold globe instead.

The globe contains a capsule which contains details of the contracting authorities, designers and constructors (in addition to coins of the day and a epistle to future generations). Given the litigious society we live into to-day, being in possession of this information you will know who to sue!

The pictures below are of a few other Roosters sighted in Riga. The church depicted is St John’s.

To see Rooster 6 you will need to enter the church which in no longer a consecrated church but a museum and art gallery. Please refer to my separate review – St Peter’s Church for further information.


This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on the Old City area of Riga. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums)– or to start the loop at the beginning go to my first entry – SamaraH Hotel Metropole – Riga.


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