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Photographer's Note

nothing creative. just a plain, cliche capture (domes pointing skyward) of the most prominent russian orthodox cathedral in riga. nonetheless, i have decided to show it here for i like the detail and light in this one, especially, given the fact it is the beginning of march in this foto, and blue skies + sunshine are extremely rare natural phenomenae in latvia at this time of the year... ;)

unfortunately, i cannot show you "before" and "after" for this this beautiful cathedral. "before" being how it looked in mid-80-ies (dark, unkempt, acid rain torn fasades) and "after" being this picture. the cathedral has recently undergone extensive renovation (including sand-blasting and repainting the fasades) and now occupies a fully deserved place in the panorama of riga.

interestingly enough, the cathedral used to be transformed into a cafeteria, popularly known as "God's Ear" (frequented by free-thinking folk and movie-makers), and a Planetarium during the soviet era.* the building has been returned to its rightful owners (the orthodox church) since latvia regained independence.

on a more historical note, the cathedral was built to a design by Nikolai Chagin in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883, during the period when the territory of Latvia was part of the Russian Empire. It is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces built with a blessing of the Russian Tsar Alexander II on the initiative of local governor-general Pyotr Bagration and bishop Veniamin Karelin. The Nativity of Christ Cathedral is renown for its icons some of which are painted by Vasili Vereshchagin.

On a side note, the period when the Nativity Cathedral was erected coincided with intensified Russification efforts in Russian Empire's provinces dominated by non-Russians. The majority religions in Latvia at the time (still true today) were Catholic and Lutheran.**

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a small glimpse of the Nativity Cathedral can be seen in a capture by avene. it is the building right in front of the only high-rise in her shot.

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* transforming temples and churches was common during the soviet years. St. Peter's Church in Riga used to be an exhibition hall and a museum. Dome's Church (one of the oldest in the country) used to be a concert hall and a museum, etc. sadly, the less lucky churches were transformed into soviet farm equipment garages, warehouses or even demolished...

** officially, the majority religions in latvia today are catholic, lutheran and orthodox. similarly, in neighboring estonia - it's lutheran and orthodox; in lithuania - almost exclusively catholic while in bielorussia and russia - orthodox.

why do i stress the "officially" part? well, in my opinion, despite what people claim as their cultural/religious background, as a direct outcome of the communist era (the official doctrine being that the religion was 'opium for the masses'), the vast majority of population in the European part of the former Soviet and satelite area are de facto atheist or agnostic; lithuania and poland being notable exceptions. the same does not apply for the central asian republics, azerbaijan and northern caucasus: Islam is experiencing very strong revival there.

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Additional Photos by Kristaps KL (zmey) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1234 W: 95 N: 1748] (7335)
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