European best destinations 2024 - Riga

Riga St Jacob's Cathedral

The Riga Archdiocesan Cathedral is the main Catholic church in Latvia. Its slender tower has preserved better than any other the pyramidal shape characteristic of Riga's medieval church towers. Historically, it is also the first Latvian parish church in Riga (1523).

It was first mentioned in written sources in 1226. Over the years, the building has undergone various transformations. In the 15th century, a clock bell appeared in the tower, it was put outside the tower under a small canopy. It served as a town alarm bell, the sound of which invited the townspeople to watch executions in Town Hall Square. 

The church has housed congregations of various denominations. From its beginnings up to the Reformation period, it belonged to the Catholics. After the Reformation, it became the first Latvian Lutheran church in Riga. In 1582, when Riga was conquered by Polish King Stephen Bathory, it was given back to the Catholic Church. In 1621, Riga was taken over by the Kingdom of Sweden – as a result, the church was returned to the Lutherans. Since 1923, St. James Church once again belongs to the Catholics.

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