Riga Freedom Monument
The Freedom Monument in Riga is one of the most important across all of Latvia, symbolising the creation of a Nation.
Built in 1935 and standing at a height of 42 meters, The Freedom Monument is a must see on your visit to Riga, dominating the park lands that surround the canal it is easily found at the end of Brivibas Street and the entrance to the Old City of Riga. You can see representations of Latvian culture, imagined in the form of folk characters and historical events, immortalized forever in stone. Designed by a well known Latvian scupltor Karlis Zale, the monument took around 4 years to construct and was paid for by the people of Latvia, who came together to raise the money to make a monument that did the country justice.
Latvia had announced its independence in 1918, so why wait so long to build a monument? Partly due to the ongoing War of Independence and partly due to finance, the building of the Freedom Monument took a lot longer than first planned. A number of contests were launched in the 1920’s to create designs for the proposed column of freedom but after many disputes and a number of attempts to choose a suitable project, the committee finally settled on Karlis Zale’s design “Shine like a star!”. The monument was to be constructed at the place where the statue Peter The Great stood before the First World War.
At the top of the Freedom monument you can see ‘Milda’. She is a symbol of Latvian Freedom and holds in her hands three stars that represent the 3 Regions of Latvia at the time of its creation, Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Latgale. The text the base reads, ‘For Fatherland and Freedom’. During day time, the Guards of Honor stand guard in front of the Freedom Monument. They switch sides every 30 minutes and change on the hour.
In the past years many tourists have not been aware of the importance of the Freedom Monument and a few rather insensitive individuals have used this important memorial as a public toilet. Let’s just say it did not go down well with the locals. Just remember, this is a symbol of Latvia’s independence and a memorial to those who gave their life to get that freedom, so please treat our Freedom Monument with the respect it deserves!
If you are impressed by Karlis Zale’s sculpture, he also was the artist responsible for the massive Bretheren Cemetery Memorial Ensemble, the graveyard for those who gave their lives for a free Latvia.