The Founding of Riga

There is a great dispute as to who was the actual founder of Riga the capital of Latvia and this honor is divided among three possibilities Bishop Berthold of Hanover, Bishop Meinhard, and Bishop Albert. The people of Riga obeyed the commands issued by the Pope which were to their advantage. When it came to the Church Riga obeyed the bishop appointed by the Pope but in secular matters remained independent. Large tracts of land were held by the city in the middle of the 13th century.

These were granted as rewards for participating in wars fought against pagans and bought from the Livs. The city of Riga had a constitution that was based on the model of Bremen, Germany. The town council held legislative power and was comprised of men belonging to the Great Guild (merchants, goldsmiths, men of letters and artists) or to the Small Guild (tradesmen).

The core of military power in Riga became the Blackheads Company (initially accepting only unmarried men) who had gained fame in the crusades. Income for the city came from trade with Pskov, Novgorod, and Lithuania to the East, Germany, Scandinavia, Denmark, England, and Holland to the West. Trading trips presented great danger as one had to protect oneself from pirates.

When it came to transporting expensive merchandise along the Daugava they had to be on the look-out for pagans.  The pagans would keep an eye out for boats in order to gain control of the merchandise and take hostages. The ransom for one man was one bag of salt. Food was mostly grown locally. Fields and meadows surrounded the city and townsfolk would grow vegetables in the fields and graze their cows and other domestic animals in the meadows.

A place of meeting and gathering together of tradesmen was known as The Blackhead Hall. During all the years of war and strife, the hall was practically destroyed. Finally, in modern times they rebuilt it so that it resembled the original. Today it has become a popular tourist object and I have included a photo I took myself of the rebuilt hall.


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