Jul 16

St. Peter’s Church (Biserica Sf. Petru)

St. Peter’s Church is situated in the historical center of the Latvian capital city, Riga. The locality of the monument is enough to indicate that the church is a part of the history of the state, thus pointing to its significancy. But more so, St. Peter’s Church is an ancient and valuable construction not solely of Latvia, but of the Baltic region. Representative for the medieval architectural design, the church has been recognized for its value and included in the UNESCO World Heritage Program in 1997.

The first written document which attests the existance of the church dates from the beginning of the 13th century (1209). At first, the structure was quite different from what it is presented before us at present. The church had a small hall and 3 corridors which were more or less identical in terms of height and width. As there is no mentioning of a belfry, the accurate assumption is that this was probably constructed separately.



The edifice which stands today is actually the result of the restoration work conducted in the 15th century. The altar dates from the same century and it is representative for the Gothic style. In fact, the same architectural design can be encountered in a basilica located in the German town of Rostock – the St. Mary Church.

The Gothic belfry, which exceeded 130 m in height, was finished at the turn of the century, but it did not manage to survive too long. The steeple came tumbling down in 1666 and the church remained without this intrinsic part of the construction for 24 years. It was not until 1690 that a new belfry was constructed under the supervision of Rupert Bindenschuh.



This new building bore the mark of the Baroque style and consisted of various domes and corridors. But the material from which it was created, wood, was definitely not the best of choices. In 1721, during a lightning storm, the steeple, the largest edifice in the world at that time, was burnt to the ground.  Tsar Peter the Great, who was in Riga at the time of the fire, gave order that the steeple be reconstructed to its former structure.

The work was completed in 1746 and the church survived up until the Second World War. This time of world conflagration brought about the demolishing of the church. The fate of the church was doomed: the belfry and the roof were reduced to ashes while the interior was completely devastated.



But the basilica was to be restored one step at a time, beginning from 1954. The first part of this project consisted of restoring the roof, this time covering it with tiles. The steeple would not see the light of day until 1967. The new belfry would set itself apart from the previous design it bore, as this time around the material used in its construction was metal. Another differentiation consists in the height of the building, the new steeple measuring 123,25 m, a couple of meters below its precursor.

Modernity had its way of getting involved in the restoration work, in as much that visitors can ascend from one passage to the next via an elevator. This goes up as much as 72 m. The restoration work for the church was finalized in June, 1973. The Clock Tower was restored in one year’s time, from 1975 until 1976.



After the exterior was redone, architects turned their entire attention to the interior of the church and managed to create a one-of-a-kind design. The ceiling of the basilica consists of overlapped and stellar cupolas and it is supported by massive columns. The altar consists of 5 chapels, arranged in a circle ,- design representative for the Gothic architectural style.

The restoration work was lengthy and strenuous, but the result was worth it, as at present Latvia prides itself with one of the oldest and most significant basilicas situated in the Baltic States. In honor of the persons and organizations which contributed to the restoration of St. Peter’s Basilica, an inscription plate was placed near the church in 1995.

Today, the church is a unique cultural monument, bearing signs both of the past and present architectural design.

Jun 15

The Red Square, Moscow (Piata Rosie, Moscova)

The Red Square is situated in Moscow, Russia, and it is “flanked” by the Kremlin, on one side, and the Kitai-gorod, a historical trade center, on the other side. Due to the fact that the most important streets and arteries derive from this square, it has led people to the accurate conclusion that the Red Square is the central point of Russia’s capital city, but also of the entire state.

The name of the square might be erroneously attached either to the color of the bricks which were used in constructing the square, or to the symbolical color of communism (‘red’). But in reality, the name of the square derives from the Russian word ‘krasnaya’ which has two meanings: ‘red’, on the one hand, and ‘beautiful’, on the other. However, this latter meaning is almost outdated.



The name was initially used in reference to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, but it was later on reassigned to the square located in close proximity of the aforementioned cathedral. The original name given to the square was Pozhar, which stands for ‘burnt-out place,’ but this is considered to have been changed to ‘Red Square’ sometimes in the 1800s.

There are many events which revolve around this piazza and because of this the square is included in a multitude of paintings, some signed by Konstantin Yuon, Vasily Surikov, etc. Just to name a few, the Red Square was the place where coronation ceremonies of the Tsars of Russia were officiated, and were public announcements and different types of formalities took place (official ceremonies).



The Red Square had always played an important part in the history of Russia. During the communist age, the square was intensely used for military processions. An edifice that is reminiscent of the communist regime is the Mausoleum of Lenin, where the earthly remains of the former Soviet ruler rest in peace. Lenin’s body has been embalmed so tourists can actually gaze on the ruthless leader almost as he appeared before people in his lifetime. The mausoleum is part of the Red Square and it is a must-see location.

The 1930s were extremely relevant in the history of the square. Two important edifices were demolished (Kazan Cathedral and Iverskaya Chapel) with the purpose of enlarging the square so as to make it fit for imposing parades, but also to permit large military vehicles to traverse it. The good news is that the two buildings which were demolished had been reconstructed after the Soviet Union fell.



For the same purpose, Saint Basil’s Cathedral was about to witness the same fate. There is a legend according to which the person in charge of this project of expending the square, Lazar Kaganovich, brought the plan to Stalin in order to get his approval. But when Stalin saw the piazza without the cathedral, he said the now well-known quote: ‘Lazar! Put it back!’, as if he could not envisage the Red Square without that construction.        

The Red Square has been recognized for the great historical value it carries so it has been inscribed in the list of world heritages. Today, the square is a preserved monument, under the UNESCO National Cultural Heritage Law.