Latgalian Potters, Masters Of Clay (Latvia)
Rezekne, poetically described as a flower bursting into bloom, is a city in the heart of the Latgale region in eastern Latvia famous for its pottery traditions. Rezekne has been a centre of spirituality, culture and education. It is defined by green fields and lakes, unpaved roads and woods.
Rezekne is located at the intersection of the two highest hills of Latgale – Makonkalns and Lielais Liepu – and the largest lakes of Latvia – Razna and Lubans, connected by the river Rezekne. Rezekne borders Russia, Lithuania and Belarus, making it both a border city as well as an EU border area.
Rezekne is not only the historical and spiritual centre of Latgale, but also its geographical centre. Strategically important road and railway links at the crossroads between Riga, Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw create good conditions for the successful development of the city. Rezekne is naturally hilly and lies on seven hills. Located in the Atlantic continental humidity zone, Rezekne enjoys cool summers and mild winters.
Pottery in Latgale
Traditional pottery forms a vital part of culture and tourism in Latgale. The Latgalian potter is seen as a craftsman and a master of the traditional art; with his ceramic creations he is able to connect with modern humanity. He is also able to satisfy its need for aesthetic and practical things and works creatively to promote the development of a craft based on ancient traditions. He is a reference point for the next generation of ceramicists.
The annual pottery days and openings of new kilns are important fixtures in the social calendar of Latgale. The ceramics masters of Latgale are always ready to open their studio doors to visitors with a genuine interest in pottery.
Historical and religious sights
There are many sights to see in Rezekne:
- The ruins of Rezekne castle on the banks of the river, dating back to the 13th century, are the most remarkable and most visited attraction in Rezekne. Due to its strategic position, the castle was formerly much-prized, but destroyed by the Swedes in 1656-60. The castle was not re-built and its stones provided the foundations for local houses and domestic buildings instead.
- Built on the remains of a wooden church in the early 20th century, Rezekne’s Heart of Jesus cathedral combines pseudo-romantic and gothic styles. It is one of the biggest churches in Latvia, with curved wooden altars decorated by sculptures of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, St Teresa and others. The cathedral is famous for its depictions in stained glass of the very first Livonian bishops – St Maynard and St Albert.
Other religious and tourist sites include the St Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church, which is a venue for concerts of classic music and worship, the Roman Catholic Church of the Anguished Virgin, the Orthodox Church of the Birth of Holy Jesus’ Mother and the St Nikolai old-believer preaching house.
Arts and culture
The United for Latvia monument (Latgale’s Mara) by the famous sculptor Karlis Jansons is the most recognisable symbol of Rezekne and a must-see for visitors. Symbolically situated at the heart of the city, the bronze composition of the monument depicts Latgale’s as much as Latvia’s struggle for freedom. It was removed twice during the Soviet period. Since 1992, the United for Latvia monument has been restored to its rightful place.
The art house of Rezekne’s secondary school, adorned with rich 19th century woodcarvings on its façade, was originally a merchant’s mansion. As a public building, it then hosted a teachers’ institute, a school and the military registration office. Visitors to the art house can enjoy ceiling paintings, grandiose tile stoves, unique parquet flooring as well as displays of art works, in particular through the Latgalian painting exhibition, from old and new generation of Latgalian painters such as J. Beketovs, F. Varslavans, S.Ludborža and G. Rancane.
The major collection of Latgalian ceramics, paintings and ethnographical objects in the Latgale cultural history museum should not be missed. The collection can be seen at two permanent exhibitions – Rezekne in the phases of epochs, and Latgale ceramics.