Photo: U. Muzikants 2019
Date: end of th 15th cent. – beginng of the 16th cent.
Conservation: end of the 19th cent.
The choir pews of Riga’s medieval cathedral, some of the oldest items of church furnishings, were created shortly before Reformation and have been preserved till the present. A pair of such pews was usually placed opposite each other in the altar choir, next to the south and north walls. Monks or priests sat there during services. A high uniform wall was located behind the row of pews and the seats were separated by profiled barriers. No doubt that the choir pews of Riga Cathedral were also complemented with a front barrier that also served as a book stand.
The ascetic construction of the pews was complemented by wood-carved ornament and two thematic reliefs.
On the side of one pew, there is Mary Magdalene in secular clothing with an anointing myrrh vessel but on the other side, the figures of Adam and Eve .
The first pages of the Bible tell the story of the Fall. Man, tempted and persuaded by the serpent, used his ability to choose to turn away from God. Since then, every person has a penchant for sin. We read in the New Testament that Jesus Christ came to redeem man from the power of sin.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6)
The scene of the Fall is depicted in the woodcut of the choir benches. The figures of Adam and Eve flank the Tree of Knowledge entwined by the serpent. Adam’s left hand points to the moment of committing sin, reaching out for the apple given by Eve. The Nordic fauna of the Garden of Eden is characterised by a hare and a squirrel at their feet. Secular and sensuous images entering the sacred space prove that Renaissance achievements had already reached Latvia by the first quarter of the 16th century.