One of the landmarks of Riga Old Town is St. Peter’s Church; the multi-layered barrel-shaped spire can be seen from almost anywhere. This makes it hugely useful for lost tourists trying to find their bearings, and I have often been grateful to the church for its distinctive hugeness. But I have never ventured inside. The weather was dry but cold, and I had at least an hour before Husband finished at the office, so I decided to join the few woolly-hatted tourists through the heavy doors, into the church.
The door is not particularly welcoming, as it is very heavy and very determined to remain closed, but I managed to struggle inside. The signs (in various languages) and the woman behind the desk (in determined Latvian) were also not terribly welcoming, but having defeated the door, I was not to be dissuaded. I paid my €3 and was allowed through the glass barrier into the main sanctuary. Another woman called me over, insisting on inspecting my ticket. There was clearly a lot of angst over non-paying tourists visiting this church. Guess they have big overheads.
Inside, there are a few things to look at, plus a tower to climb (if you pay extra). I was content to simply be inside and wandered around. Brick pillars hold up the high arching roof, and organ music hummed from speakers. It was a peaceful place to be (maybe noisy tourists object to paying for entry, or are dissuaded from visiting by the two grumpy ladies and the spiteful door).
There was a display showing a massive bell, the Peace Bell, which is a feature of a multi-national festival of competing choirs. Next to the giant bell is a giant rooster, which was once the weather-vane on the steeple, but now shelters inside. (It was made in 1690, so has earned a rest from the elements.)
The main sanctuary had various paintings and sculptures, of people who looked religious but I’d never heard of them so possibly not. A local artist, Laine Kainaize, had an exhibition of paintings. They were simplistic in style, and full of colour and I liked them (but not in my house).
The rear of the church was dominated by a statue of Roland. I don’t know who Roland is, and reading the plaque, I’m not sure anyone else does either! A copy of his statue stands outside one of the guilds, like a lucky charm; but like the ancient rooster, he has been retired to the shelter of the church. He stands with a heap of rubble, which I think are bits of the church which have fallen off.
The question that always begs an answer in a church is: does anyone pray here? Did the sanctuary feel holy? The high ceiling and warm architecture do inspire a feeling of holiness/prayer, but the atmosphere is rather shattered by the grumpy money ladies gossiping at the back. Perhaps, in days gone by, this was a place where people honestly sought God’s will. Today, I’m not so sure—but how much can a mere building convey anyway? Surely a church—any church—is the people who attend, and I wasn’t there for a service, so I cannot comment.
If you have €3 and an hour to spend, there are worse things you could do.
Thanks for reading. I hope you find somewhere to pray today.
Love, Anne x
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