Mater Dolorosa Roman Catholic Church is located in Old Riga, near the Riga Order Castle on the former filling-up of the Castle Moat. This is a quite recent example of sacred architecture in the Old Town because it was erected in the 2nd half of the 18th century. The construction history of this church is little known and very Interesting. After Reformation (1524) Catholic churches devolved on Lutherans' hands: in the so-called Swedish time Catholic churches, congregations and services were banned in Riga and Vidzeme. Only after the capture of Riga In 1710 Russians allowed to build Catholic churches here. In 1762 Catherine II issued an order to build a new church whose construction started by the castle in 1763. In 1765 it was consecrated as an 'oratorium publicum'. Historical sources give contradictory evidence on this first (wooden) church. Its previously unspecified location is given in a 1783 plan by Johann Christoph Brotze. A new stone church in Baroque style was erected in 1785. Construction of this new building was hastened by the Austrian Kaiser Josef II, visiting Riga in 1780, when he together with the Polish King Stanislaw August Poniatowski and the Russian 'tsesarevich' Pavel (the future Emperor Paul I) granted large sums of money for the reconstruction of the church. The new church originally was a stone hall with a simple rectangular planning and five windows in side facades and an altar facing the Castle Square. The main entrance was located in the southern part, at the centre of the side facade facing the present Polu gate. In 1837 a small polygonal baptistery (chapel) was added to the Northern facade along the axis of the main side entrance. A substantial reconstruction of the church was carried out in 1859 1860 after the architect Johann Daniel Felsko's (1813-1902) design, turning the small Baroque-style church into a noble Eclecticist building. The main entrance was transferred to the Castle Square and built in the ground floor of the massive frontal belfry (35 m high).
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