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The brickwork and gilded cupolas make this neo-Byzantine Russian Orthodox Cathedral one of Riga’s most beautiful buildings and, unlike other churches in the City, while it has had a number of uses, it has not been rebuilt numerous times. That said, compared to the City’s medieval Christian churches this is a mere youngster of a building.

The Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in the city and indeed in the Baltics. It opened in 1884 though the belfry was added at a later date to house twelve bells, a surprise gift from Russian Czar Alexander II who sanctioned the churches’ building in the first place.

While the cathedral survived both World Wars and the subsequent Soviet occupation of Latvia, Soviet authorities closed it down in the 1960s and converted it into a Planetarium – the Republic House of Knowledge. For a short time during WWI, when Riga was under German occupation, the cathedral served as a Lutheran church.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Latvia’s independence in 1991, the cathedral was restored (though restoration continues) and returned to service as an Orthodox church.

The cathedral is famous for its collection of ancient and valuable icons which managed to survive its 20th century trials and tribulations. Of particular significance are three iconostasis painted by Vasily Vereshchagin from the St Petersburg Academy of Art. These and its Byzantine-style frescoes with Orthodox Christian ornamentation make an internal viewing obligatory. Ensure that you turn up suitably dressed – most importantly, no shorts.

Photography inside the church is not permitted.

Address: Brīvības bulvāris 23
Phone: +371 67211207


This is one in a group (loop) of reviews exploring beyond the Old City area of Riga. Continue to my next entry. Alternatively to start at the beginning of the loop click here.


 

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