The church of St James in Riga, Latvia, is the seat of the city’s Roman Catholic archbishopric. It occupies an important position opposite Latvia’s Parliament. The first reference to St.James’s Church was in 1226. The first few centuries of its history were uneventful as it served as a local church. Then, after the Reformation the Lutherans took ownership; however, the Counter Reformation saw the church given to the Jesuits in 1582. When the Swedes occupied Riga in the 17th Century it served as the church of the Swedish garrison. Finally, in 1922 the church was given to the Catholic community. The steeple was the only one in Riga that had a bell, named in this case the Bell of Wretched Sinners. History relates how the bell had a bad habit of ringing by itself when any unfaithful wife passed by. This is no longer a problem as the Soviet occupiers melted down the bell for weaponry during WWII. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint James the Greater, but is often referred to by the name St Jacob because Latvian, like many other languages, uses the same name for James and Jacob.
The Rundale Palace has been almost totally restored and looks good. You can wander around on your own and there is excellent information available in English in every room.
Some rooms were excessively opulent and decorated in just one colour; for example, the Duke’s bedroom was a strange dark green colour, but he obviously liked it as his bedclothes were the same colour. The room next door was the Audience Chamber or Waiting Room, which was a hideous maroon, obviously intended to unsettle people as I felt slightly nauseous and had to retire to the room next door, which was the Italian Room in a lovely light blue that made you feel happy and full of the joys of spring.
The best thing though was the formal gardens and their layout, which was very geometrical and done by an artist of some merit. There was one particularly lovely tree-lined avenue with a view of the palace at its conclusion.
My finest memories of the place are the Art Nouveau buildings, particularly 10a and 10b Elizabetes Street. The central market, near the bus station, is worth a visit on its own. I only visited the market after coming back from Rundale Palace on the bus and I should have devoted more time to the market.