Why Roosters?

Rooster on top of Dom Cathedral 
Last week I wrote about cats being on the roof of a building, but today I'm going to share the reason that we have roosters sitting on the tip of churches in Riga. When we first moved to Riga, we noticed that some churches have the usual crosses on the top of them, but others have roosters sitting on top of the steeple.

I couldn't recall ever seeing a rooster on top of a steeple. On doing more research, I was wrong to think that other countries don't have these on steeples. I found out that's it's common in European countries to see roosters on top of Lutheran churches.
Our Lady of Sorrows Church

The more common cross on the top of a steeple is found on Catholic churches in Europe. We have a couple of them in Old Town Riga as well. And, some Catholic churches in Europe have roosters sitting on top of crosses.

So, the question popping into my head is why a rooster? After looking at several sources, it seems like there are three reasons for this steeple top. Almost every site mentioned the story of Peter denying Jesus three times "before the rooster crows." It seems that the rooster is then the defender against evil. It scares away the devil.
St. Peter's Lutheran Church

The rooster is a Christian symbol of watchfulness and vigilance. The rooster crows to wake us up to be vigilant during the entire day. Also, the rooster can be a warning to not fall into sin like Peter did in his denial of Jesus.
St. John's Lutheran Church

The most practical reason for the roosters in Riga is because they also serve as a weathervane. The beak of the roosters always point into the wind. In a seaport such as Riga, that was a very important piece of information needed to sail a ship. When the sailors looked at the church steeples then, they would immediately know which way the wind was blowing.
St. Jacob's Catholic Church

Riga converted to Lutheranism very early after the Reformation, so many of the churches in the Old Town today became Lutheran in the early 1500s. St. Jacob's is an example of that. It must have put the rooster on the steeple when it was used by the Lutheran church. Later on, the church was restored to its Catholic origins, however the steeple top stayed as it was - a rooster.

Old rooster from Dom Cathedral
These roosters look very small since they sit so high off the ground, but up close, they are very large structures. When we were in Dom Cathedral a couple months ago, we spotted their retired rooster sitting off to the side in their church. I'm guessing that it was about  10-12 feet tall. It was quite impressive.

St. Peter's has their seventh rooster on their steeple. Several others were destroyed by storms or fires over the hundreds of years of their existence. The sixth was taken out by a WWII bomb in 1941.

It's not so easy being a rooster high up on a perch.

Information taken from Concordia-memories.org


  1. I was looking for an answer as to why nearly all the churches I encountered in Estonia had roosters instead of crosses on their towers. This shined some light on the issue, thank you.


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