House of the Blackheads

Historical building in Riga House of the Blackheads

Дом Черноголовых

The House of the Blackheads is a famous architectural monument of the 14th century, located in the heart of Riga. Repeatedly rebuilt the building was mostly destroyed during the Great Patriotic War. It was possible to restore the building in our days.

In historical documents for the first time the building is mentioned in 1334 as the new house of the Great Guild, and built during the Order of the Order from 1330 to 1353. At the end of the fifteenth century, the building was leased by Chernogolov and was called at that time not unlike the “Court of King Arthur”, the present name of the house was supposedly in the late 60’s of the 16th century.

Blackheads are a fraternity of young and unmarried foreign merchants. The Brotherhood exists since the end of the thirteenth century and is under the auspices of St. George, but later the patron saint of the brotherhood becomes St. Mauritius, whose symbol in the form of a black head in the arms and became a distinctive sign of the brotherhood.

The founders of the richest and most influential company were representatives of not only Riga, but also foreign companies engaged in direct delivery of goods to Riga. They also created the company Blackheads as a counterweight to the Great Guild of sedentary merchants of the city, engaged in the purchase of goods. But, despite the separation, the company was still under the supervision of the Great Guild until the end of the seventeenth century.

According to historical data since 1477 Blackheads rent a house built for the public needs by the guild of artisans. Decorating and rebuilding the building, the Blackheads eventually become the sole owners of the New House. The first half of the day the building works as a stock exchange, and the second half of the day is devoted to rest – it hosts various evenings, balls, and concerts, especially since the hall has wonderful acoustics.
At different times in this house there were both explicitly and secretly Russian tsars and queens. Portraits of the monarchs of Sweden and Russia served as the decoration of the hall, among them there is a portrait personally presented by Catherine the second. So in the book of honorable guests, among the many records there is the signature of Bismarck himself.

Along with the Great Guild, the organization directed the public life of the city, took an active part in the defense, and by the end of 1895 it became a club of German merchants, ceasing to function as a corporation. And since 1939, after the repatriation of the Germans, the club is closed.

The original appearance of the house, unfortunately, is unknown. The building occupies an area of ​​425 sq. M, the main part of the house of the Blackheads is occupied by the central hall. Under the hall was a small floor divided into several rooms and a cellar under it. The attic of the house served as a storage room. Despite repeated changes and changes in the whole house, it was the hall that remained intact, as the core of the building, which is of historical value.

Today, the facade was designed in the early 17th century in the style of European Mannerism. According to the assumptions of Professor Vipper, the architects of the building should be sought among the masters of Bremen, Danzig and Denmark. Nowadays, scientists assume that this is Bodeker or Jansen. The facade is decorated with sculptures, the decoration is made with art forging, another decoration is the clock. At the House of the Blackheads there are unique astronomical clocks with the mechanism of the “eternal calendar”. The three dials of the clock in addition to time show the number, month and year, as well as the time of sunrise and sunset and moon phases. In the museums of the history of Riga and navigation, as well as in the Architectural Museum are kept various fragments of the decoration of the building and part of the interior of the house of the Blackheads.

In 1684, completed the porch, through which you can directly from the square to get to the second floor. Another extension in two floors was built in 1794, and in 1816 another one, but already from the Daugava River. In these same years, an open porch replaced the entrance. The most recent and, perhaps, significant change in the facade is the statues of Neptune, Mercury, Unity and Peace, made of zinc and installed in 1886.

In 1941, in June, the house came under fire from German troops, its ruins stood until 1948. On the site of the disassembled ruins of the House of Blackheads, instead of the Town Hall Square, there appeared the square of Latvian Red Riflemen with a constructed museum and a monument to the Latvian Red Riflemen. After Latvia gained its independence, the square again became known as Town Hall, and the museum was renamed the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

Initially, they did not intend to restore the House of Blackheads, but by the 800th anniversary of Riga, it was rebuilt after all. Before him stands a statue – a symbol of freedom, judicial power and trade protection, in the form of Roland. In the house itself there is a museum and a concert hall, where concerts of symphonic music are often held.

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