Oct 17

St. Jacob’s Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Iacob)

St. Jacob’s Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral which combines elements pertaining to the Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. This edifice, which is located in Riga, is among the oldest of its kind but among the most wonderfully crafted. The detailing of both the exterior and the interior reflect the architectural evolution of the cathedral as several stylistic designs are incorporated within its structure.

The Gothic tower comprises 3 stained glass windows which depict an amalgam of leaf and berry motifs beautifully painted in the Art Nouveau style, a representation meant to symbolize the Eucharist.


The church, which is dedicated to St. James the Great, dates from the 13th century, having been mentioned for the first time in official documents in 1225. Throughout time, the original edifice was improved. In the 15th century, the Gothic church was remodeled in the sense that a fragment of the edifice was turned into a basilica. More so, in the same period of time, the Holy Cross Chapel was constructed in close vicinity of the church.

Even the scope of the church shifted according to the religious wave that swept over Latvia at particular times. For instance, in the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation was under way, the cathedral was transformed into a German language Lutheran church. In 1523, it was turned into a Latvian language Lutheran church.


In the later part of the 16th century, the church underwent a change of hands as it was offered to the Jesuits when the Counter Reformation took shape. However, it was returned to the Lutherans after Gustav II Adolf gained control over Riga. There was a time when the edifice served completely different purposes than the ones it was designed for. In the early 19th century (1812), Napoleon’s army used the building for storage.

In the 20th century, the cathedral returned to the Catholics and has remained under their administration till the present day.


It is believed that St. Jacob’s Cathedral has been around since the early development of Riga. Bishop Albert, the founder of the city, is thought to have ordered for the cathedral to be erected together with two other churches: the Virgin Mary’s Assumption Church and St. Peter’s Church.

Even if the church is recorded in the annals of Riga from the early 13th century, the construction work extended over a lengthy period, the edifice having been completed in the 1300s. But work on the church was carried on until the later decades of the 15th century.


St. Jacob’s Cathedral consists of red bricks placed on a limestone fundament. While throughout the passage of time the church underwent several modifications, the original structure has been kept.

The last adjustments conveyed to the edifice were done at the end of the 18th century when a supplementary roof was built in the shape of a pyramid and the tower was plated in cooper.

At present, the cathedral comprises a central hall with a specially arranged space for the choir, the basement and a prayer room which is made up of 2 presbyteries and the altar room. St. Jacobs’s church is an architectural monument, having been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.