Great Kristaps is a great local legend about Riga

By October 30, 2019 No Comments

According to legend, once upon a time a very strong man lived on the Daugava riverside and he earned his living by carrying people across the river on his back. One night he was approached by a little boy who asked to carry him over the river. Although the weather was stormy, the man picked up the child and began carrying him across the river. With each step, the man found that the child was becaming heavier until by midstream only with the greatest of effort could he made it to shore. The boy turned out to be Christ’s son so the man was named Kristaps (Latvian form of Christopher). Now you will find his statue on the right bank of the Daugava.

The story about Great Kristaps was passed on from one generation to another; it saw many alterations and it has many variations. They say that Kristaps was awarded a heap of money and he used it to buy all of Riga. At that time, the town was so small, a wolf could easily run through it. But one fact is definite – around 1510 a wooden sculpture of Great Kristaps with a little boy on his shoulder and a lamp and a stick in his hands was placed by the river. The sculpture was cherished by the local people; they decorated it with ribbons and garlands of flowers, lit up candles and prayed for protection from evil.

The statue was so important that it has survived up to present times and is exhibited at the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation. A copy of the statue is now placed on the 11th November Embankment. In addition, Great Kristaps is popular with film industry people as a biennial National Film Festival is named after this legendary character.

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