House of Blackheads [Melngalvju nams]

This is easily one of the most impressive buildings in the Town Hall Square, the House of Blackheads. The Gothic style building erected in 1344 was a bachelor’s pad for the members of the merchants’ guild.

They held many festivals, carnivals and tournaments not only for themselves but also for the citizens of Riga. The balls however, were only for members and other aristocrats all over Europe. It was well known that even Russian tsars and tsarinas frequented such balls.

So now, why Blackheads? It may have come from of their patron saints, St Maurice, supposedly a black African Christian Roman commander who died as a martyr upon refusing to kill fellow Christians, through decapitation. His head was depicted on the Blackheads coat of arms, thus giving them their name.

Sadly, the architecture was bombed to ruins by the Germans in 1941 and demolished by the Soviets in 1948. Inspired by an engraving in the portal which read “Should you ever see me falling – raise me up, it’s your calling!” Riga rebuild this monument and in 1999 the reconstruction was completed.

It is a pity that the building is currently not open to the public as the President of Latvia has moved his offices here while Riga Castle is being renovated.

*Photo credits to Froggy

House of the Blackheads

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