House of Blackheads, Riga

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  • St Mauritius
    St Mauritius
    by toonsarah
  • The House of the Blackheads
    The House of the Blackheads
    by IreneMcKay
  • The House of the Blackheads
    The House of the Blackheads
    by IreneMcKay
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    The House of the Blackheads

    by IreneMcKay Updated Jul 6, 2014

    This beautiful building stands on the main square in Riga's old town. It was used by bachelor members of the blackheads merchant guild. The original building was completed in 1344. Over the centuries it was expanded and embellished. However, it was completely destroyed in the bombings of 1941.

    The building was completely rebuilt and was finally finished in the 1990s. This fits in nicely with the inscription over the building's door 'if I should fall, build me again.' There is a statue of Roland, Riga's patron saint in the centre of the square near the House of the Blackheads.

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    House of the Blackheads

    by toonsarah Written Jun 11, 2014

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This is almost certainly the most famous building in Riga and one which may be said to symbolise the city. It is certainly ornate, and beautiful on a slightly “over the top” fashion. But while it looks very old in style, like many of the buildings here it is very new, as the redness of its bricks and gleaming features perhaps suggest. The original was very badly damaged by German bombs in June 1941 and the occupying Soviet administration decided in 1948 to demolish what little remained. While there was a lot of subsequent talk about rebuilding it, the project didn’t get going until 1995, following Latvian independence (achieved 1991), and the reconstruction was finally finished in 1999.

    This is a faithful copy then of an original that was itself the subject of many reconstructions and embellishments over the centuries. It started life in the early fourteenth century (the first recorded mention dates from 1334) as a typical medieval building, built as a place for meetings and festivities for various public organisations in Riga. In the 17th century however it became the headquarters of a single body, a merchants’ guild known as the Brotherhood of Blackheads, and was bought by them in 1713. This was a group of enterprising unmarried foreign (mainly German) traders who were very powerful and influential in Riga at that time. Their patron saint was St. Mauritius (or St Maurice), a roman legion commander from Thebes in Ancient Egypt, who was tortured to death. His image can be seen on the building to the right of the entrance (photo five) and on the guild’s coat of arms.

    “Should I ever crumble to dust, rebuild my walls you must”: a medieval motto once inscribed on the gate of the building, and fulfilled by its 1990s reconstruction.

    The building has unfortunately been closed to visitors, apparently temporarily, since summer 2012, so we weren’t able to go inside. This is due to the President of Latvia having moved his offices here while Riga Castle is being renovated, and as that could be a lengthy project, it would be best to check before visiting if access to this remarkable building is crucial to your enjoyment of your trip to Riga. Personally though, I was pretty content just to see and marvel at this somewhat overwhelming exterior.

    Next tip: the Monument to the Latvian Riflemen

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    House of the Blackheads

    by antistar Updated Nov 27, 2013

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    In the main Ratslaukums square, you'll find this elegant Hanseatic building belonging to the Guild of the Blackheads. This was a unique guild of unmarried merchants, and ship captains, who would host lavish parties attended by the rich and famous across the region, including Russian tsars.

    The building was destroyed during World War 2, and the Soviets finished the job with explosives. But since independence the Latvian government has restored the building from practically nothing, to its original splendour. It's easily one of the most impressive buildings in the city.

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    House of the Blackheads

    by fachd Updated Sep 19, 2012

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    House of the Blackheads, this beautiful building is not the original. It was totally rebuilt, replicated and completed in 1999. Originally called the New House which was built in 1334 and since then it has been reconstructed on numerous occasions from 1522. It was partly destroyed during WW2 the remainder demolished by Soviets in 1948. Today the building is a museum.

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    HOUSE OF BLACKHEADS

    by balhannah Updated Feb 18, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Unfortunately, the lovely "House of Blackheads" I was viewing today, was not old, it was only completed in 1999.

    World War II, and because the House of Blackheads was one of the most impressive architectural monuments in the city, it was destroyed. What little remained was then demolished by the Soviets in 1948.

    What a shame, as this old gothic building dated back till 1344, a place for the unmarried German Merchants to come, and also a Concert Hall where R. Wagner once performed.

    Opening Times... Tues-Sun 10-5pm (May-Sep); 11-5pm (Oct-Apr).
    Admission ...2Ls

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    The House of Blackheads

    by Flying.Scotsman Written Apr 22, 2011

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    The House of Blackheads is well worth a visit, but was closed to the public when we were there in March, 2011. From information on the internet, the outside is the main attraction of this building. Dating back to the 14th century with a Dutch early 17th century facade, it was virtuallydestroyed by the Soviets in 1948, then fully restored in 1999. It was originally the Riga headquarters of an association of unmarried merchants. The tourist information office which was housed here has been relocated to Kalku iela 16. Do double check as this may be a temporary move.

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    Blackheads houses

    by Raimix Updated Feb 25, 2011

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    Originally built in the middle of 14th century, it was fully rebuilt in 2001 for Riga's 800th anniversary. In the Second World War these buildings were destroyed and now it is very great pleasure to see such great sights again.

    Melngalvu nams (in Latvian) stands in town hall square near St. Peter's church, Roland statue, Occupation museum and river Danube. It was used as a residence for merchants to stay.

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    House of Blackheads in Riga

    by georeiser Written Dec 29, 2009

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The house of Blackheads is a colourful and easily recognised building. It is located in the southwestern part of the Old Town not far the west of St. Peter's Church. It was originally built in 1344 and partly destroyed during World War II, before and the ruins were completely destroyed by the Soviets in 1948. It was rebuilt in 1999 for Riga's 800th anniversary in 2001, and made as an exact copy as the original. The building contains a tourist Office, a café, a souvenir shop and a museum.

    Open to the public daily, 10 - 17, except Mondays.
    Admission: 1,50 Ls

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    House of Blackheads

    by HORSCHECK Updated Jan 9, 2009

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    The House of Blackheads is a Gothic building from 1344. Blackheads was a guild of unmarried merchants, existing in several Baltic medieval towns. The building was renovated for Riga's 800th anniversairy in 2001.

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    The House of the Blackheads

    by MalenaN Written Dec 28, 2008

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    The house of Blackheads is a house with an impressive renaissance façade on Town Hall Square. It was originally built in 1344 and was then used by the Guild of unmarried merchants. There used to be shops and other businesses on the first floor, on the second floor was the guildhall and on the other floors were rooms for storage.

    The house of Blackheads was destroyed in 1941, during World War II. Not until 1999 the building was rebuilt and it was then made as an exact copy as the original building. Now days you will find the Tourist Office, a café, a souvenir shop and a museum showing the restored rooms in the building.

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  • angiebabe's Profile Photo

    House of Blackheads

    by angiebabe Updated Nov 2, 2008

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    This building that really stands out from the crowd within the Town Hall Square, with its striking facade of blackskinned men in medieval costume, was orginally the headquarters of a guild of bachelor German merchants.

    Open Tuesday to Sundays 10am to 5pm. Admission about £2.

    Rebuilt since the Soviet authorities in the 1940s demolished much of the Town Hall Square to eradicate German architecture.

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    House of Blackheads

    by Acirfa Written May 1, 2008

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    Originally built in 1344, it was owned by a merchant guild. It was destroyed during 1941 in the war and then the Soviets destroyed it in 1948. It was rebuilt again in 2001 to it's original detail.

    It sits in the Town Hall Square by the Museum of Occupations. It is now used as a museum and also at times as a concert hall

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  • ealgisi's Profile Photo

    House of Blackheads

    by ealgisi Updated Nov 19, 2007

    First mentioned in 1334, the building was owned by the Great Guild, but in the 15th century the house was rented out to the Blackheads Merchant Guild it became their property in 1713.

    Blackheads was an organisation of unmarried foreign merchants. The beautiful Gothic building was destroyed in 1941 and was rebuilt for Riga's 800th anniversary in 2001.

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    The House of Blackheads

    by tini58de Written Nov 4, 2007

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    The House of Blackheads (Melngalvju nams) is a very new building - in 2001 it was rebuilt for Riga's 800th anniversary. Originally this striking Gothic building with a Dutch Renaissance facade was built in 1344 and served to house traveling, single members of the merchants' guild. It was destroyed in 1941. Now it houses a museum and sometimes serves as a concert hall.

    Open 10:00-17:00, closed on Mondays
    Admission: 1.50Ls.

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    The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

    by tini58de Updated Oct 20, 2007

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    Right next to the House of the Blackheads is a rather ugly black concrete building, which now houses the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. This museum is dedicated to the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Latvia. The museum is quite tendentious, which on the other hand is very understandable! The exhibits are very touching, telling the history of war, occupation, deportation and suppression.

    Exhibits are available in Latvian, English, German and Russian. It is also possible to use an audio guide with headphones in English. Admission is free, donation boxes are put up.

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