The Roerichs and the Dom Cathedral in Riga




       Two paintings by Nicholas Roerich are dedicated to the Dom Cathedral in Riga: The Inside of the Dom Cathedral (see photo below) and The Dom Cathedral (1903).
       Roerich's fascination with the Dom is easy to understand; it is simple, yet majestic. The vertical rhythms of the inside, underlined by the large major nave, arouse in the viewer a strong emotional response. A colour sketch by Roerich shows the ceremonial dusky flowers, between which the six-leaved window arises. The artist was viewing this whilst listening to music.
       “When I remember Latvia and Riga, a succession of unforgettable and light impressions arise. I recall walking inside the incredible Dom during our journey around the holy places, with the sounds of the organ floating majestically. I did not manage to acknowledge who the outstanding organist was, he who spread his divine inspiration like Sebastian Bach, majestically filling the historic vaults with rising and enlightening chords. More than once we went at a certain hour to listen to this spiritual prayer. And so, in our everyday life, Riga first became a spiritual and majestic chapel.”1)
       During the summer of 1903, the virtuous and notable organist, Alfreds Kalnins (1879-1951), was playing in the Dom. Later, at the beginning of the 1930’s, Alfreds Kalnins was in New York and whilst there he played at the Roerich Museum.

1) N. Roerich. For The Latvian Roerich Society, the book: Н.Рерих. «Держава Света»,
New York, 1931. g., 150 pages.



On the left you see the painting, “The Inside of the Dom Cathedral” (1903) by N. Roerich.
On the right you see a present-day photograph of the view depicted in the painting.



A Short History of the Dom Cathedral


The construction of the Dom Cathedral began in the year 1211. Bishop Albert of Riga dedicated this place as his new residence.
The name “Dom”, translated from the latin “Domus Dei”, means “House of God”. We can also say that the word has evolved from the latin phrase “Deo Optimo Maximo” (For the best and greatest God), abbreviated to “DOM”.

The cathedral has been rebuilt on numerous occasions, during a period of hundreds of years, and many architectual styles can be seen: romanesque, gothic, renaissance, baroque, as well as other styles. The architectual forms of the cathedral are strikingly simple, which is what creates the majestic and, at the same time, awesome look of its outer shape.

The first known organ in the Dom was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1547. A newer organ was built at the end of the 16th century, and this sounded for 280 years. The present organ in the Dom is more than a hundred years old, and was built by German craftsmen. The organ has two keyboards, enabling the playing of compositions written for two organs. This organ has been registered as the largest and, technically, most modern in the world, with its 6718 wood and metal pipes, arranged in 124 different voices.

The Dom Cathedral in Riga is the most important centre of spiritual culture in Latvia whilst, at the same time, constituting an incredible artistic and architectual monument. Organ concerts, Sunday public worship, and many international spiritual musical events are held there. The large number of visitors to the Dom shows that it is one of the most popular cultural objects for both the local people and for tourists to Latvia.




Photographs of the Riga Dom