2000 | 1 | 7-22
Article title

THE ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE OF THE RIGA DOME CATHEDRAL IN THE 13TH CENTURY: CONTACTS AND INFLUENCES (Rigas Doma arhitektura un buvplastika 13. gadsimta. Kontakti un ietekmes)

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The cornerstone for the Riga Dome Cathedral was laid on July 25, 1211, and the construction project was completed in the second half of the 13th century. This topic has been discussed endlessly over the last century and more, but the subject has not yet been exhausted, and researchers continue to focus on it. The initial stimulus for construction of the Dome came from the ambitions of the German Bishop Albert in terms of Baltic expansion. The building of a grand cathedral was part of the process. The cathedral was originally intended as a pillar basilica modeled after the Dome Cathedral of Brunswick that was put up by Henry the Lion and served as a paradigm for the building of Northern German cathedrals at that time - especially the Dome at Ratzeburg, which is the oldest surviving sample of brick-based architecture in the region. Like that structure, the Riga Dome was at first built of stone blocks, but in the 1220s the builders turned to the new material of the brick not changing, however, the plan of the building. At the same time construction of a cloister was also begun. It is assumed that when Albert died in 1229 the project was not complete. The construction plans of that particular period are best reflected in the structural clarity of the geometric elements that are found in the eastern part of the church, testifying to a gradual shift in style from the Romanesque to the Gothic. We have little information about construction work during the reign of the next bishop, Nicolaus. It is presumed that the work did not stop, but continued along on the basis of inertia. A new intensity in the process appeared when the first archbishop, Albert Suerbeer, arrived in Riga. He came from the ranks of Pope Innocent IV, and it may be that his contacts with the upper reaches of the Catholic Church served as an impetus for moving away from the already old-fashioned style of pillar basilicas in favor of a hall-type building. Once the work became more active again, influences from the Rhineland and Westphalia appeared in parts of the building, thus causing the myth of a master craftsman from Cologne traveling to Riga to provide the necessary brilliance to the grandiose construction. Later research into Medieval architecture and art in the Rhine region have brought greater precision to descriptions of master artists in that period, defining the 'master of Samson' and the 'master Ezzo Erenfried', for example. Against this background, the idea of a 'Cologne master' in Riga seems far too abstract and unspecific. A detailed analysis of the Riga Dome sculpture shows that elements from the 13th century can be perceived as a homogeneous phenomenon - the ensemble of the Dome is imbued with a cross of various elements and influences.
  • Elita Grosmane, Institute of Art History of Latvian Academy of Art, Akademijas laukums 1-160, Riga, Latvia
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