Dear Ladies, and Gentlemen as appropriate, Riga’s Powder Tower is not a fashionable place to powder your nose. Rather, it part of the Latvian War Museum but more on that later.
The captivating, ivy clad, 25.6 metres high tower is the last remaining (apart from nearby Ramer Tower which is a total reconstruction) of some 18-25 (depending on what account you read) towers which punctuated the city’s medieval defensive walls. It was originally called the Sand Tower (named after sand dunes in the local area at the time) but became known as the Powder Tower as, from the 17th century, it was the city’s main repository for its gunpowder. The tower is 14.3 metres in diameter, with the walls upwards of 3 metres thick.
The original tower was built in 1330. It was destroyed in 1621 as a result of Swedish attacks, not to be rebuilt until 1650 when the width of the walls was increased to upwards of 3 metres. Due to the increased wall thickness it fared better in the Great Northern War during which 9 cannon balls were embedded in its walls, as Russia wrested control of Latvia from Sweden in 1710.
Once Russia had settled in for its first 200+ years occupation of Latvia the tower fell into disuse and eventually doves settled into it. In 1892 a German student fraternity was given use of the tower on condition that it renovated it and retained its outward appearance. The students’ first task was to remove years worth of dove excrement. This they sold for 612 gold rubles, a substantial amount at the time and sufficient for the required renovation.
In 1919 the Latvian Riflemen’s Museum was moved into the tower (post a major renovation) and just prior to World War II the red brick annex was added as the museum was extended.
In 1940 the Soviets closed what they saw as a ‘war’ museum and in its place opened the Revolutionary Museum of the Socialist Republic of Latvia. This museum, dedicated to the revolution of the proletariat, was not a big hit with the oppressed locals and it was promptly closed when Latvia regained its independence in the early 1990s. At this stage, the former Latvian Riflemen’s Museum was reopened as the Latvian War Museum. As I didn’t have time to visit the museum I can comment on it except to say that entry to it is free.
While admiring the tower, avert your eyes towards the museum annex and admire the rather quaint balcony on one of the widows. I guess the soldiers engraved thereon are very befitting a war museum and I have to say I like it a lot – though it would look a little out of place on my own abode.
Museum Opening Hours – Daily
10.00 – 18.00 April – October
10.00 – 17.00 November – March
Museum Admission – Free (Guided tours are available at a cost)
The exterior of the Powder Tower can be admired at any time free of charge.
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 – Swedish Gate – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my first entry – SamaraH Hotel Metropole – Riga.