Rīga Great Cemetery turns 250

This year, the Great Cemetery in Rīga turns 250 years old, refocusing attention on the immense cultural and historical significance of the place, as well as its unique architectural content, reports Latvian Radio.

Right now, you can get to know the sprawling cemetery in detail at an exhibition "Great Cemetery 250" ("Lielie kapi 250"), created by the Riga Monuments Agency and which can be viewed in the oldest part of the cemetery, in the area near Klusās Street. The exhibition displays historical drawings and photos that reflect some of the cemetery's unique objects.

As a guiding motif, the motif of bluebells runs through the exhibition, because these flowers fill the cemetery like a blue sea in the spring and are one of its symbols.

The exhibition begins with the drawings of Baltic German amateur historians such as Johann Christoph Brotze (1742-1823), which are the oldest visual evidence of the appearance of tombstones in the early part of the cemetery's life – if that is the right word. These early graves include the partially surviving tombstone of Johann Friedrich Hartknoch (1740-1789), best known for first publishing Immanuel Kant's landmark philosophical work Critique Of Pure Reason.

The exhibition mostly features objects that have been preserved in the cemeteries until today only partially or have completely disappeared. The drawings are followed by photographs that already tell of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, when the patrician families of Rīga added numerous grandiose monuments, mausoleums and family chapels, many of which were later desecrated.

Among them, for example, is the chapel of the family of the legendary Rīga restaurateur, Otto Schwarz, which was demolished in the 1980s. A separate section of the exhibition also records the destruction of many grave plots in the 1970s.

The exhibition "Lielie kapi 250" is currently on display and on Friday, August 25, there will also be two special excursions in the cemetery – at 15:00 there will be an excursion for families led by Sandra Martinsone, and at 16:00 an excursion led by Gunārs Armans.


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