Riga – Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation

Another day, another museum!

This is the wreck of a single-masted ship, sunk in the old Riga port. It dates to around the thirteenth century.

Wooden anchors from around the same period.

This is dross. I never knew that this word derived from the residue left from metal working (or more precisely from melting iron).

Bits of stone from the city’s original cathedral, these date from the thirteenth century.

St. Christopher.

One for all the civil engineers out there… It’s a wooden pile from one of the city towers, around 800 years old.

One of the twenty military drummers ordered by the town council in 1688. When someone approached it the whole thing would move, which is a bit of early technology…

A set of keys to the city gates of Riga, where were ceremoniously presented to Catherine II, Empress of Russia, when she visited the city in 1764. History doesn’t report whether she sneaked into Riga and gave them a try.

There’s a long story to this exhibit, which is the wooden sculpture of Madonna on a Crescent Moon dating to the late fifteenth century. It is thought that this was originally placed in Mary’s Altar under the bell tower of St. Peter’s Church in the city. It is an enormously important object to the city and in 1930 it was given state protection, which recognised the relevance of the sculpture and it prevented it being damaged or moved outside of the country.

Although efforts were made to keep the sculpture in Riga, it was stolen by the Germans in 1944 and went on show at the Lübeck Museum in St. Anne’s Priory. It remained there until a forward thinking German museum representative pro-actively arranged for it to be returned to Riga, where it is safely back on display.

The former lock and key to the Bishop’s Palace.

This is a bit controversial, which the museum recognises, and is said to be one of the earliest Christmas decorations in existence. Riga has a particular claim to this, as the first decorated Christmas tree in the world was placed up in the city by merchants in 1510. It’s really a stone ball from around the seventeenth century, likely originally a ball used in a game which was then drilled through.

I’m not sure whether Liam will show this to Dylan, but it’s the rather, er, unique exhibit of two hands that were cut off money forgers in the sixteenth century.

This photo is taken from the gallery of the former city library, given to the museum in the early twentieth century.

And this photo is of the ground floor where there were once thousands of books.

This is a fantastic museum and I spent over two hours here quite happily. There are English translations available for nearly everything and the building itself is interesting as it was originally part of the Bishop’s Palace and parts were then later used as a library.

I also liked how there’s a book showing how the museum used to look, and how things used to be displayed. This is a clever idea, and the displays of the past were very different to today, with less information being provided to visitors. The museum is also one of the oldest in Europe (it dates back to 1773), despite losing a part of its collection during the Second World War.

There are also two rooms dedicated to the sea and navigation, although by the time I got to those I felt I had seen more than enough. The entrance fee was €5, which seems very reasonable given the size of the museum. I also liked how easy the museum was to navigate, although they gave visitors a map anyway, just to make it easy.