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This important centre for public life, which was first mentioned by sources in 1334 as the New House of the Large Guild, is located near the Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums). The building was erected by the city itself, and originally it was rented to the merchants of the Large Guild and the unmarried merchants, the Brotherhood of Blackheads, who later, in 1713, purchased the building and became its proprietors.
The Blackheads was characteristically a common union of young, unmarried merchants and ship captains in the Hansa cities, which chose St. Maurice to be their patron. St. Mauritius was an imaginary African black moor (from this the name of the brotherhood “the Blackheads” comes). Due to their exceptional status the Blackheads played an important role in the society life and traditions; many VIPs of that time (including Russian tsars) took part in events organized by the Blackheads. As a German merchant club the Brotherhood of Blackheads existed in Riga until 1939.
Peter’s Cathedral used to be the main cathedral during the middle ages for the inhabitants of Riga, and it has belonged to the citizens of Riga since the very beginning. The church congregation mainly consisted of privileged large guild merchants and craftsmen of smaller guilds. The first time St. Peter’s cathedral was mentioned in 1209. Its oldest section, currently the central area, which used to be the altar area, built in 1408–1409 – conforms to Gothic style. The cathedral has been rebuilt and enlarged several times. In the latter half of the 15th century, the cathedral acquired its three-dimensional basilica look. In 1491 the tower was built upon the cathedral, and although it collapsed several times, it was always rebuilt.
In 1666 the tower collapsed, in 1677 it was recovered, but in the same year it was destroyed by fire. In 1690 it was rebuilt again. At that time the 64.5 m high steeple was the highest wooden structure in the world. In 1721 lightning hit the tower and it was destroyed again (reportedly, the Russian tsar Peter I, who at that time was in Riga, took part in extinguishing the fire). This time the renewed tower stayed intact by 1746. During World War II on 29 June 1941 artillery projectiles, which hit the cathedral, inflamed it, and as the cathedral burned the tower collapsed. The tower was resurrected in 1973, but the cathedral’s restoration was completed in 1984. Now there is an elevator built in the tower, which takes visitors to tower’s second gallery located on 72 m height to enjoy the city panorama.

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Additional Photos by George Rumpler (Budapestman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 8900 W: 3 N: 20435] (82620)
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