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ID number:733045
Published: 15.11.2005.
Language: English
Level: Secondary school
Literature: n/a
References: Not used

Old Riga is the beginning of Riga – with the first local inhabitant log buildings in the 11th century and the first German newcomer stone buildings in the 13th century. Over time, with much of the old disappearing and the new replacing it, it has become a part of the modern city where evidence of various centuries alternates in the streets.
Due to its convenient geographical location Riga has experienced many powers: starting with the arrival of German crusaders in the 13th century with fire and swords, in the 16th century as a Polish city, and in the 17th century belonging to the then mighty Swedish Kingdom. Later, in the 18th century, Riga was invaded by the Rusian army and included in the Russian Empire. The city was constantly growing. In the 1920s and 1930s Riga became the capital of independent Latvia. 1940 was the beginning of a period of two occupations: implemented by Germany and the Soviet Union. Only in 1991 did Riga throw off its chains together with all of Latvia and once again became the capital of a free and independent country.
It is difficult to say when Riga was founded. It is first mentioned in the Levonian Chronicle in connections with 1198 when the Liv Imauts stabbed Bishop Berthold near Riga. The Chronicle also mentions 1201 when Bishop Albert started building the city of Riga on the territory assigned by the Livs. In 1223 the Riga Town Council started functioning and Riga gained the rights of a city.
The Riga Town Hall of the time was located in the heart of Old Riga – Town Square – a part of the present territory of Riflemen Square. The Town Square was not extensive. Originally in the 13th – 16th centuries this was a marketplace which was later moved closer to the port of the Daugava shore. For centuries festivals were celebrated on the Town Square, games were organised, carnival parades took place and mysteries were enacted. The large city scales were also located in the Town Square – to weigh imported goods. But mainly – this was the place of the most important events in the city’s social and political life.
On the opposite side of the square was one of the most ornate, richest and most beautiful buildings in Riga – Melngalvju nams – the Blackheads House. Its former name – the New house. This building which was first mentioned in written records in 1334, was built for the needs of the city guilds of traders and craftsmen. Over time, the Blackheads House changed considerably, becomming even more ornate. The most important changes took place in 1590 – 1625: the stepped pediment was complemented with rich stone and metal decorations – volutes, sculptures, obelisks, decorative bushes and a weathervane. A unique astronomical clock was built into the facade of the Blackheads House. Other, less significant changes were made in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Blackheads House suffered considerably in the bombings of June 29. 1942 and was completely pulled down in 1948. Today in its place a new construction has risen – the renewed Blackheads House.

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