NEO-GOTHIC ALTARS IN LATVIAN LUTHERAN CHURCHES (19. gadsimta neogotiskie altari Latvijas luteranu baznicas)
The article deals with a subject that is little known in Latvian art history. Exploring Lutheran churches, more than 50 Neo-Gothic altars turned up that can be divided in three typological groups: altar retables framing altarpieces, monolithic compositions from three pointed arches and rood screen-type altars that separate the congregation premise from the altar part. The earliest Neo-Gothic altar was set up in 1820 and consecrated at the Riga Dome Cathedral. Its project was designed by Johann Wilhelm Krause, the Professor of Architecture at Tartu University, in 1816. Riga Dome altar became a pattern to be followed in four other Neo-Gothic altars: in Kalsnava, Vecpiebalga etc. Altars that combined Classicist traditions with fresh Neo-Gothic influences, novel for this region at that time, appeared in Latvia from 1820 to 1845. In the early 1850s, as knowledge in Neo-Gothic trend increased, altar compositions were created, using Gothic decorative elements only - pointed arches, wimpergs (ornamental gables), crockets, pinnacles, finials etc. The Rujiena altar made in 1855 is based on the idea of perspectival portal that is told to be derived from the Parnu St. Nicholas's Church. But Rujiena altar has become the pattern for Smiltene and Ergli Church altars. Altars were often designed by famous architects. For example, Cesis altar is related to the St. Petersburg architect Andrey Stackenschneider, Riga St. Peter's Church - to the Cologne Dome Building Master Vinzenz Statz. The vision of the altar composition was often included already in the new church project. This shows in the survived Neo-Gothic projects for Riga St. Gertrude's Church and Pinki St. Nicholas's Church by Riga City Chief Architect Johann Daniel Felsko. The altar set up in Riga St. Peter's Church starts the tradition of monolithic altars based on the late Gothic tabernacle altars when a subtle, open-worked composition decorated with finials, wimpergs and crockets topped the winged altar. Twelve figures of apostles found in Riga St. Peter's Church altar were derived from the early 16th century Visher family's work from Nuremberg - bronze sculptures for the Sebaldus Grave in the choir part of the Sebaldus Church.
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