If the Ground Could Talk

Dom Cathedral spire in center
If the ground could talk, what tales would it have to tell us over the 819 years of life in the city of Riga. Our city is celebrating it's "birthday" this weekend, so I know exactly how many years it's been.

This window used to be above ground
The interesting phenomenon about living in a city that is so old is that the ground level that was here in 1201 is now about ten feet below ground. We have seen it explained over and over again.

We ate at a medieval restaurant several months ago that was a former wine cellar. Today the restaurant is what we'd call the basement. We had to walk down several steps to get into the restaurant. We were told that the window which was high up on the wall was originally above ground. Now it isn't a window any longer because it's below the level of the street.

The building is still standing where it originally stood on top of the ground when built, but the ground around it has risen over time with all the building and moving of dirt, so now it's below ground. It's hard to understand how the ground has risen like that, but over hundred of years, that's what happens.

Basement of St. John's Church

The church where we worship is another example. When it was built in the early 1200s, one wall of the church was a city wall. The original city wall now is in the basement of the church. The wall didn't move at all, the city rose up around it so that now the church sits on top of where the city wall existed.

Dom Cathedral 
I think the best example of this is the Riga Dom. This cathedral was also built in the thirteenth century. From Dom Square, the church appears to be at ground level.

Play area for pre-schoolers around the Dom 

But when you approach the huge church, you can see that it actually sits in a bowl. The church even built a maze play area for the pre-schoolers in the confines of the bowl, with a sloping lawn up to the ground level.

Steps up to the ground level
In this case, the original church building wasn't reconstructed to accommodate the rising ground outside, the ground around the church rises up to meet the new level.

The only accommodation for the rising ground outside is the newly constructed narthex area (probably only 100 years old) where people descend from the ground level about ten steps before entering the worship area.

Of course, since the ground can't explain the rising levels, I'll assume things for a bit. Much of the risen ground could be the result of bombed out buildings during the world wars where the rubble was added to the soil and buildings rebuilt on the higher surface. There were many other wars during the eight centuries that added rubble to the ground, also.

It's hard to explain. Of course, over 800 years, just imagine sweeping all the dirt, that your kids bring into the house, out of your door every day. Maybe your house would be ten feet below the surface, also.


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