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Dom tower gets first big fix in 500 years

The Baltic region’s greatest medieval church – the Riga Dom Cathedral, is once again hidden behind scaffolding as its tower undergoes possibly the most significant reconstruction works since the end of the 16th Century.

The reconstruction job now underway in the Riga Dom’s tower is far more complicated than the newly fixed façade and roof works performed a few years ago. To reinforce and replace the wooden constructions inside the tower of this UNESCO World Heritage site will take restorers and builders most of the year to complete.

Latvian Radio journalist Māra Rozenberga was taken up into the inside of the tower by the head of the construction team and City Council’s building inspectors. 54 meters above the ground, the Dom’s team leader in charge of the rebuilding effort escorted the visitors past the five-centuries-old wooden beams behind the golden face of the tower clock, Old Town’s cobblestones like grains of sand far below them.

The tower reconstruction works required the building of a replica ‘tower within the tower’ to bolster the parts that need to be replaced with prosthetic pinewood while the connecting segments get renewed. But down below, the Southern Chapel and the Chapel of Maria are also undergoing reconstruction, with the latter’s ornate woodcuttings, stone decorations and other artworks the focus of the restoration there.

Construction firm Arčers lead builder Dzintars Miķelsons told LR the greatest challenges come from the unknowns discovered only during the course of the renovation works.

“For instance, there are beautiful and valuable drawings hidden in high nooks you wouldn’t expect, that have been crammed full of ventilation equipment or some other modern apparatus,” he said.

On his part Riga Dom congregation chairman Kaspars Upītis said the works were going on so as not to disturb the life of the congregation. “The priorities are church services, the building works, concerts and then tourists,” he listed.

The ongoing works will use up more than €6 million of EU funds, but further jobs will also await the restorers afterwards, as the renewing the organ complex, landscaping the external pit outside the church on Dom Square and strengthening the slowly sinking foundations of the Dom will still remain to be tackled.

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