Visit a grand church that once served as a planetarium and is now known for its architecture and rich collection of religious icons.
The Cathedral of Christ's Nativity is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the Baltics. Go on a self-guided tour of the magnificent neo-byzantine structure to appreciate its architectural beauty and the many icons that adorn the interior.
The cathedral was constructed in 1876, when Latvia was part of the Russian Empire. At the time, the cathedral was one of the most expensive buildings ever to be constructed in Riga. Since then the vast church has experienced a chequered history and undergone numerous renovations. In the 1960s, the Soviets repurposed the cathedral as a planetarium and café, destroying its ceiling frescoes. The building reverted back to a cathedral when Latvia gained independence from Russia.
Spend a few minutes looking over the building’s yellow sandstone exterior with its striped tiling pattern and five domes. Then step inside to marvel at the richly decorated interior.
Look up at the beautiful ceiling frescoes and circular portraits of religious figures. You will notice the use of a lot of gold leaf in the works of art. Admire the ornate chandeliers and study the elaborate paintings on the wall of icons, which separates the cathedral's sanctuary from the nave. Look for the painting of Czar Nicholas II and his family, which depicts them with halos above their heads. The Russian royals were executed in 1918 and are now saints of the Orthodox Church.
During your visit, you may hear the chimes of the cathedral’s bells. The bell tower was a last minute addition during the cathedral’s initial construction, after Russian Czar Alexander II donated 12 bells as a gift.
The Cathedral of Christ's Nativity is located just south of Esplanade Park, close to several bus and tram routes. It is open daily and admission is free, although donations toward the building’s preservation are welcome.