Located outside the City walls, this church is named after the early Middle Ages saint – St. Gertrude (626-659) – one of a number of patron saints of travellers.
This is not the original St Gertrude’s Church which first came to fame when the Archbishop, after a spat with the City Council, put a curse on the Council in the early 1400s. While the curse was removed by the Pope in 1477 it seems to me that the Archbishop’s tactic might have backfired on the church itself as, prior to the construction of the current red brick Neo-Gothic building in 1894, the earlier wooden (the first church was stone) church was burned to the ground or destroyed in war no less than six times.
If you have read others of my reviews on Riga you will be aware that masonry buildings, and that included churches, could not be erected outside the city walls until the mid 1850s. This was part of the city’s (or rather Russia’s) defense plan in that should the then walled city be endangered by invaders all the buildings outside the walls could easily be razed (as they were on a number of occasions) to deny would-be invaders shelter, while they tried to breach the city walls.
Another interesting thing about this, now Lutheran, church is that it has a cross on the top of its spire. You may wonder why it is interesting that a Christian church should have a cross on its spire. Well, again if you have read other reviews on this blog – such as Cock-a-doodle-do you will be aware that early churches in Riga sported roosters as opposed to crosses on their spires.
Being on the edge of Riga’s most famous Art Nouveau area, there are numerous buildings of this style in the vicinity of the church. My final two pictures attached depict a couple of the more interesting Art Nouveau adornments I found on buildings to the rear of the church.
By the beginning the 20th century St Gertrude’s had amassed a congregation of 30,000 with two distinct grouping – Germans and Latvians. In 1906 a second church, St Gertrude’s New Church, was opened nearby to cater for the Latvian component of the church. The German part of the congregation remained in this, the original, church which took on the name it retains to this day – St Gertrude’s Old Church. Services here are in German.
Unfortunately, the church was not open when I was in the area but pictures I have seen of the fairly simple interior suggest that it is worthy a look if you can coincide your visit with opening hours.
Opening hours – Noting that another source I have seen suggests 10:00 – 18:00 daily.
Mon – Tue: 10:00-14:00
Wed – Thu: 14:00-19:00
Address: Gertrudes iela 8
Directions: New Town