THE HAND OF A THIEF. 9 funny and mysterious legends of Riga.

In the age of fake news and in the light of celebrating Riga's birthday, we could not resist but tell some weird stories about our Old Town that are most likely the fake news of our great-grand-parents. Or maybe not, who knows, right? Before the seriousness of a second covid-19 wave and new studying season begins, let's have fun with a bouquet of some of our favourite legends of Riga with screenshots from video stories we made for Goethe-Institut Rīga this summer.


When the Great Christopher was a young boy, strong and tall, he used to work as the lifter, carrying people across the river Daugava. One night, before going to sleep, he heard a baby cry across the water. Driven by curiosity and empathy, Christopher went across the river and decided to carry the baby to safety at his hut.

With each step he took, the child, put on Christopher's shoulders, became heavier and heavier; he almost sank before getting to the other side. When bringing the baby to safety, Christopher felt so tired and immediately hit the sack. Next morning there was no trace of the child, but where it slept, a chest full of gold was laying. For the money, the Great Christopher bought some land, and the land is now called Riga!


Once in hundred years a mysterious sprite comes out of the river Daugava to ask the citizens whether Riga is ready and finished. If the first person the spirit encounters answers that it is, Riga will be flooded and and will sink!


There is a legend of two medieval monks that wanted to be famous and become saints without lifting a finger. They asked the city to build themselves in the wall of St. John's church and only leave a cross-shaped hole for them to breathe and beg for some food.

Soon after being a saint might have gone out of fashion, the city also might have became Lutheran by then, and the real saints would be living humanists. People say the monks were only remembered two hundred years ago when the church underwent reconstruction. But were they found? One can only guess.


When reconstructing St.Jacob's church, a wall was found hollow with bones dressed in an exotic costume before falling out. The remains of this man were documented, drawn, and his garment might have been saved, but how did he get inside the wall and from where, no one knows!


Long time ago, Old Town was one long one-way street. If you wanted to get from one corner to the other only 20 metres apart, sometimes you needed to ride for an hour. Needless to say, the traffic was wild. On one night, a candle maker's daughter was out on streets selling the tappers when she was fatally hit by a carriage. On very dark nights one can still meet the candle maker's daughter asking to buy her tappers or just saying -  will you light a candle for me?


Once, it might have been wartime between Russian and Swedish kingdoms, a local woman from inside the town fell in love with a foreign soldier outside the walls. The secretly met by the Swedish Gate at nights from time to time until they got caught.

Who knowns how the soldier was punished, but the woman was built inside the wall by the gate so she can always wait for her man until the end of days. Many centuries have passed, but on a quiet night one can still hear her last words – but I still love you!


Some say that in the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation there is an extraordinary exhibit – a hand of a thief cut off by the executioner long time ago. The legend states that the one fulfilling a set of spells can gain the possession of this hand, and it will serve the person until death. Some also say that when the hand gets too bored, the death of its owner might mysteriously occur earlier than expected.


In 1961, the Culture minister of the Soviet Union, Yekaterina Furceva, visited Riga. When she saw the Orthodox Cathedral of the nativity of Christ, comrade Furceva demanded this place to be closed for religion since it cannot exist within the USSR. All the crosses on top of the cathedral were cut off, and the building was soon turned into a planetarium, gallery, lectorium, and even café. The legend states that, some time after the crucifixes being gone, 9 out of 10 men who did the job were mysteriously dead.


Long, long time ago, a guard at the Dome Cathedral fell asleep and was awaken by a band of men asking to be let inside the church crypts. "We will not harm you," they said, "and if you let us in, it will be generously awarded." Driven by curiosity, the guard allowed them to enter. He was blindfolded, the gang took him underground, measured many steps, went under low arcs, narrow caves, opened and closed secret doors. Eventually, they opened the terminal ones, uncovered the guard's eyes, and there was a large room full with treasure and precious metals. "Keep silent, and we will give you gold!"

When the men took everything they needed, they brought the guard back and left to sleep. Next morning he tried looking for every door and gate do the crypt, but only found solid walls and dead ends.