Last year in March, the Saeima adopted the law on the handover of St. Peter's Church from the Rīga City Council to the joint Latvian-German body. The implementation of the law caused drama shortly afterward with how the previous owners and staff were evicted, remembers former employee Iveta Tērauda: "I try not [..] to remember it. We were asked to exit the building within three days. Then we were thrown out, and some of us couldn't even return there because we weren't bowing low enough to the new owners."
The Rīga City Council refused to speak to LTV about the church, only stating in writing that "the dismissal of the staff was done observing the normative order and deadlines."
22 people lost their jobs at the church last summer, replaced by a mostly German team, with a mostly German vision that the church is not only for clerical service but for culture. So far, a new piano has been purchased for the church and some exhibitions, literary readings, and conferences have taken place, according to Stefan Meissner, head of the LELB St. Peter's Church parish.
The key to the renaissance of the St. Peter's Church would be its long-due restoration. The architect and restorator Pēteris Blūms has spoken publicly for years about its critical condition. He said that he'd believed the work restoration would begin right after the handover: "All large projects, developments, need capacity building. The new owners [..] need adaptation time. The estate is huge."
The previous manager – the Rīga City Council – did not rush with the restoration of the building. The church elevator up to the tower, used by many tourists for sightseeing, was sometimes called the city's milking cow: according to the State Audit, between 2016 and 2019 the church got 4 million in revenue which was not used within the church but for other council institutions.
Currently, the elevator is working with even more vigor hauling tourists up and down many hours a day. However, the revenue generated now goes back into the church. The 16th-century three-meter-tall candle holder has now been restored to its former glory. To receive the 33 million earmarked by the Bundestag, experts are carrying out an inspection of the technical state of the building.
Germany's Ambassador to Latvia Christian Heldt told LTV that the necessary documentation can take a long time: "I won't just sign and hand out a check. This is a cooperation-oriented approach. We need all expertise and responsibility from the Latvian side on monuments, their protection, maybe construction expertise from the German side. The idea is to bring together the best experts to manage this unique restoration project."
He mentioned the Wagner House in Rīga, whose restoration the Bundestag is supporting with EUR 5 million. The project agreement took two years.
The Saeima has given the new owners ten years to implement the restoration project; otherwise, the estate will have to be handed back to the state. Former employee Iveta Tērauda said this might well be the case: "I passed here once and was in shock: old rotten apples and trash."
The German Ambassador, though, sees a perspective of the historical links between Latvia and Germany: "Notwithstanding the recent history, we are on the way to feeling this as not only a neighboring territory but also one cultural family." Architect Pēteris Blūms added: "This is something so big that it marks the end of WWII in Rīga. It is that big."