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Latvian coin "Baroque of Courland"


2014/12/10 10:34

Latvijas Banka is issuing a new 5 euro collector coin dedicated to the Baroque art style in Courland.

Face value: 5 euro
Weight: 22.00 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925ºfineness, with gilded elements
Quality: proof
Struck in 2014 by Mennica Polska S.A. (Poland)
Artists: Laimonis Šēnbergs (graphic design), Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

Obverse
The obverse features an acanthus leaf design from the altar of the Lestene Church. The semi-circled inscription of the year 2014 occupies the upper part of the obverse on the left from the design, the inscription 5 EURO is in the centre, and the semi-circled inscription LATVIJA (Latvia) is placed in the lower part of the obverse.

Reverse
The angel from the altar of the Lestene Church is the central motif. The semi-circled inscriptions KURZEMES BAROKS (Baroque of Courland; on the left) and NIKOLAUSS SĒFRENSS (Nicolaus Söffrens; on the right) encompass the design in the lower part of the reverse.

Edge
Two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA, separated by dots.

The end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century was a time of flourishing architecture and decorative art in Courland. Estate owners competed amongst themselves for the largest and most lavish church on their property. These desires were satisfied by the woodworking workshop of Ventspils (then Windau), which had been established to be part of Duke Jacob's great shipbuilding plans. Woodcarver Nicolaus Söffrens Sr. (?–1694) made the retable and pulpit of St. Catherine's Church in Kuldīga (Goldingen) (1660–1663), and his son Nicolaus Söffrens Jr. (1662–1710) became the most outstanding master of the Courland Baroque. The Baroque era has left a particularly rich legacy in Latvia. The 17th and 18th century churches in Courland are among the greatest treasures created in Latvia in the period of historical styles. The contemporary demand promoted the immigration of foreign artists and craftsmen and thus also flourishing of the arts.

The city of Liepāja (Libau) managed to successfully match the luxury needs of the landed gentry of Courland. In 1697, the largest Baroque altar in Latvia was built in St. Anna's Church whose retable has been included in the Latvian Cultural Canon as one of its visual art treasures.

The altar and pulpit for the Landze Lutheran Church (1701) and Ventspils Castle chapel furnishings completed by Söffrens's stepson Johann Märtens (1690–1737) were also built in Söffrens's workshop. Märtens continued the woodcarving traditions of the Ventspils school. He is the author of the furnishings of the Salgale Church (1722) as well as the pulpit and confession bench of the Kandava Church (1735–1736). The carved case of the Ugāle Church organ built by master Cornelius Rhaneus from Liepāja in 1700 was made by Michael Marquart, a Söffrens's relative, in 1697. Influenced by Söffrens's workshop was also Joachim Kreuzfeldt (1673–1721) who is considered to be the author of furnishings of the churches in Usma, Saka and Vārme as well as of parts of the Apriķi Church furnishings.

The largest Baroque ensemble in Courland (1704–1709) used to be found in the Lestene Church. The altar, pulpit, confession bench, benches for the congregation and the organ case made in the same style were the last carvings made in Söffrens's workshop. In February 1945, the church was damaged by the soviet artillery bombardments. In 1961, the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Lestene discontinued its activities. The remnants of the demolished church were taken to the Tukums Museum in 1964, and in 1967 the curch became a grain drying kiln.

As of 1982, the partially restored fragments of the Lestene Church were on display at the Rundāle Palace Museum. Now the church is undergoing renovation, and its woodcarvings are being restored to be gradually taken back to Lestene.

The restoration of the Lestene Church and woodcarvings by Nicolaus Söffrens is one of the most important projects in protecting the cultural heritage of Latvia. The participation of each and every citizen in this project is of vital importance.

Latvian coin "Coin of the Seasons"


2014/11/12 17:46

Latvijas Banka is issuing a new 5 euro silver collector coin dedicated to Latvian ethnographic and folklore traditions.

Face value: 5 euro
Weight: 22,00 g
Diameter: 35,00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2014 by Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)
Artists: Arvīds Priedīte (graphic design), Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

Obverse
The inner part of the obverse features the Sun surrounded by the images of four farm labourers, each depicted in an activity typical for one of the four seasons: a woodcutter (winter), a sowing man (spring), a crop harvester (summer), and a thresher (autumn). The ancient names of season-concluding months are circled along the outer ring of the obverse: the Candle Month, the Leaf Month, the Rye Month and the Frost Month. The inscription 5 EURO is placed to the right of the centre.

Reverse
The inner part of the reverse shows a potato with straws stuck into it, a traditional interior decoration of ancient Latvians. It is surrounded by the images representing the Latvian seasonal traditions: Father Christmas, a girl swinging at Easter, a Midsummer celebrant, and mummers who roamed farmsteads from Martinmas to Shrovetide. The names of ancient seasonal celebrations are circled along the outer ring of the reverse: CHRISTMAS, SHROVETIDE, EASTER, ŪSIŅI, JĀŅI, MĀRAS (the days of Ūsiņš, Jānis, Māra and Miķelis), and MARTINMAS. Going up to the right of the centre, there is the slantwise inscription LATVIJA, and the year 2014 is placed on the right hand side.

Edge
There are the inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA, separated by rhombic dots.

Existence manifests itself through change. It pulsates in endless rhythmic variation: heartbeat, dancing, hammer striking an anvil, marching soldiers, ticking clocks and everyday rushing around. In nature, as well, rhythm and cyclical passage are the crucial elements. Night replaces day, dawn blooms into a bright sun, which in turn fades into sunset. The moon waxes and wanes and waxes again to full moon. Gusts of wind bring clouds and snow and rain but we are certain to have scorching heat one day and long for refreshing rain.

The Earth, our vast and only home, is full of rhythms that organise and sometimes interfere with people's lives. The place where Latvians are destined to live has been called God's land, our Green Land and Land of Laima. Everything seems to be well proportioned here: there are times of bitter cold and times of blazing heat, there are pouring rains and serene mists that veil our fields and woods, cities and lakes, villages and farms. To use a fashionable expression, we live in the comfort zone.

We are a part of constant alternation of the four seasons, with the everyday course of events illuminated by a change of darkness and light during solstices and the festivals of Jāņi, Martinmas, Christmas, Shrovetide and Easter. The basic processes of nature are a subject of scientific research, while our consciousness has in store more ancient cultural layers that reflect the four primal forces of nature – fire, water, earth and air –, four cardinal points, four lunar phases and four dimensions.

The change of seasons is reflected in our ethnography and folklore; in ancient times, it determined people's lives and work to an even greater degree than today. The old Latvian names for the twelve months of the year are but one example: there is Winter Month, followed by Candle Month, Snow Crust or Dove Month, Tree Sap Month, Leaf or Sowing Month, Blossom Month, Hay or Linden Month, Rye or Reaping Month, Forest Month, Dead Souls' or Autumn Month, Frost Month and Wolves Month. Latvian writer Edvarts Virza (1883–1940) in his romantic work "Straumēni" (1933) provided a vivid description of how the four seasons are intertwined with the rustic life of the Latvian farmer.

The romanticism and poetry seen in the seasons have been an inspiration for peoples, cultures and civilizations. Venetian Antonio Vivaldi's (1678–1741) baroque violin concerto "Four Seasons" remains popular centuries after it was composed. An allegory to spring is Sandro Boticelli's (1445–1510) painting "Primavera". Latvians recognise their spring in paintings by Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945). The genius of impressionism, Claude Monet (1840–1926), reveals the pulsating joy of high summer. A melancholic nostalgia flows from the works by Isaac Levitan (1860–1900) depicting autumn.

The seasons have also been a source of concern and problems for people. How to keep warm in winter? Is there a danger of flooding this spring? Will the crops survive the sweltering sun of the summer? Is there a possibility of major storms in the fall? The symphony of seasons is at the same time a magnificent ode to joy and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Now we are reminded of these also by this Latvian euro collector coin.

Latvian coin "Ainaži Nautical School"


2014/03/05 15:00

New Latvian silver collector 5 euro coin dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Ainaži Nautical School.

Face value: 5 euro
Weight: 22.00 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2014 by Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands).
Artist: Ivars Drulle

Obverse
The number 5, with the inscription EURO beneath it, is placed in the centre. Four sailing ships are symmetrically arranged along the outer ring of the obverse.

Reverse
The central field features a compass, with an element painted red and pointing to the North. There are semi-circled inscriptions AINAŽU at the top and JŪRSKOLA at the bottom, and the years 1864 and 2014 on the left and right respectively.

Edge
The inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA, separated by rhombic dots.

In the beginning there were words. The call of Krišjānis Valdemārs (1825–1891), an ideologist of the so-called New Latvians, who was one of the key figures in the national awakening movement, found poetic expression in the verses of Auseklis (Miķelis Krogzemis; 1850–1879): "Go to sea, Latvians .." That was a call for Latvians to overcome their backwardness and isolation and take up a respectable place in the world's economy, to get to know the cultural treasures of the human race and integrate with Western civilisation. That could be accomplished by active economic operation and cooperation. The fact that the Latvian lands lay by a bustling sea seemed to be a clear sign of the budding nation's potential.

The words soon turned into deeds. On Valdemārs' initiative, the first Latvian and Estonian nautical school was established on 23 November 1864. This area of Vidzeme had long boasted tough and enterprising men. The seaside people created their prosperity by building small ships and by shipping cargoes to Riga and St. Petersburg. Soon they developed capabilities for building larger vessels and exploring faraway seas, but for that well-educated sailors and captains were needed. Before the establishment of the nautical school, such education was out of the average Latvian's reach. The school was financed by the ship owners of Ainaži: Juris, Andrejs and Oto Veide, Jānis Miķelsons, Gusts Lielmežs and others. It was housed in one of the buildings belonging to Juris Veide's household. The first headmaster was Swede Christian Dahl (1839–1904), who devoted thirty years of his life to this mission. At first, the school functioned as an elementary education establishment, offering specialisation in the fundamentals of navigation and students taking their exams in Riga or Pärnu.

As time went by, Ainaži Nautical School began to be viewed as a model. In 1867, the Russian Empire decreed to create a wider school system of this kind. Forty new nautical schools were opened, of which eleven were located in Latvia. Education was offered free of charge and was available to anyone in their native language. In 1880, Ainaži Nautical School was awarded the highest-category status, which meant that it could now groom sea captains. The school organised training voyages with the sailing ship "Katarina". Ch. Dahl with his students even helped explore the Northern passage. The school also gained several new buildings accommodating about 3 000 students. A thousand of them received the diploma of captain or steersman.

This education was closely tied to shipbuilding in Latvia: by the end of the 19th century, a fleet of 550 sailing ships had formed, of which 50 had been built in Ainaži. Crews of about a dozen people took cargoes not only to all the ports in Europe but sailed also across the Atlantic. Latvians were proudly going to sea, indeed ..

With the advent of World War I came a new era, and steel steamers began to dominate. Yet the previous fifty years of economic activity had had a nurturing effect on national self-confidence. Valdemārs and his fellow visionaries had laid the cornerstone for Latvia's future.

150 years have passed since the foundation of Ainaži Nautical School. By now citizens of free Latvia have sailed the seven seas; they have explored the world, integrated with the European Union and joined the euro area. The first euro collector coin issued by Latvijas Banka is dedicated to the anniversary of Ainaži Nautical School. The ship of great yearning, aspirations and dreams depicted on the coin is certain to sail smoothly around the world.

Latvian coin "365"


2013/11/14 13:46

Bank of Latvia releases new innovative silver coin "365".

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 16.40 g
Diameter: 30.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2013 by Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)
Artist: Paulis Liepa

Obverse
The obverse features a circle symbolising 360 + 5 degrees, including also the time reference point. The year 2013 is placed on the circle at the top. The concentric lines within the circle represent 1 second, 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day, 1 month and 1 year. The inscription LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA is semi-circled at the bottom.

Reverse
The reverse features an intricate pattern of lines which turn into circles; the diagram comprises a shiny sector resembling the form of the number 1. The inscription LATS is placed at the lower part of the reverse to the right from the shiny sector.

Edge
Plain.

"What changes, endures". This idea expressed by Rainis in his play "The Golden Horse" over a hundred years ago is more topical today than ever before: Latvia is poised on the threshold of important change marked by its historic accession to the euro area. The 1-lats silver coin entitled "365" puts a symbolic full stop to the era of the renewed lats. This number is particularly noteworthy among others, for it makes one recall the days of the year with their endless diversity of events and the flow of life.

No highly developed society is imaginable without measuring time. The activities at the basis of Baltic culture already stimulated awareness of the flow of time, the change of seasons, and the solar calendar. The authors of Latvian folksongs contemplate the seasons of sowing and reaping, the period of the activity of the dead men's souls, and other cycles rooted in natural phenomena; the seasonal festivities of Easter, Midsummer, Michaelmas and Winter Solstice all find reflection in the folksongs. The rhythms originally dictated by nature are at the foundation of the culture, traditions, mentality, and work and life ethic of the nation.

Time is a measure whereby the rate at which any change takes place is determined. It is also called the fourth dimension. Time characterises the movement of things from the past through the present to the future. To understand what time is, hundreds of scientists have delved into the depths of research, yet answers to the questions why time flows, why it does so in only one direction or if a quantum of time exists have not been found.

The different perceptions of time are also a thing of wonder. Time may stretch endlessly, or it may become the most coveted gift with the value of gold. Man's contemplation of time has been reflected in many dictums like the following: "The time did not exist before the beginning of the universe" (St. Augustine); "The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time" (Dante); "Nothing can be longer, since 'tis the measure of eternity; nothing is shorter, since there is time always wanting to accomplish what we aim at" (Voltaire).

To the coins – carriers of emotional, poetic, narrative or metaphoric messages – issued by Latvijas Banka is now added a coin that reflects the intellectual and the scientific. The geometrical abstraction of the graphic design can be likened to the ascetic image of a scientific diagram. The circle on the obverse of the coin symbolises 360 + 5 degrees, including the time reference. From there, one second, one minute, one hour, one day, one month and one year begin their course; the linear graphic symbols of all of these units of time have been arranged in concentric lines. Each of them has its importance in the pulse and flow of existence. Their totality is used to measure the lifespan of an individual, the history of mankind, and the length of the life of our planet and the universe.

An interesting rebus of fractions has been encoded in the coin, based on the number 4: seasons, points on the compass, quarters. The ¾ likewise has its meaning: a dance rhythm, an angle of a portrait, the last step before the finish line, the academic hour, or 45 half-time minutes of a football match. On the reverse, the magic of numbers is transformed into the symbol for one lats that is treated like a shiny sector in the diagram of a circle. The intricate pattern of lines, resembling our fingerprints, turn into shiny circles forming the aura of time.

The coin "365" is also a reminder of the importance of education and mind, which will be of use to any poetically inclined Latvian in today's pragmatic world. The dominant of reason and intellect is being reinforced as Latvia becomes ever deeper integrated with the common space and time of the European Union.

Latvian circulation coin “Coin of parity”


2013/11/06 10:07

Bank of Latvia is issuing a new circulation coin “Coin of parity”.

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 4.80 g
Diameter: 21.75 mm
Metal: cupro-nickel
Struck in 2013 by Münze Österreich (Austria)
Artists: Ilmārs Blumbergs (graphic design) and Jānis Strupulis (plaster model)

Obverse
The large coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia, with the year 2013 inscribed below, is placed in the centre. The inscriptions LATVIJAS and REPUBLIKA, each arranged in a semicircle, are above and beneath the central motif respectively.

Reverse
The numeral "1" with its own reflected duplication in an identical yet reversed form features as a conjunctive element of the inscriptions "1 LATS" and "1,42 EIRO".

Edge
Two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.

The turn of the year is an important landmark for cash circulation in Latvia, because from then on the payment flow is going to change. The lats-to-euro changeover is treated with utmost responsibility both in non-cash settlements and euro banknote and coin supplies, the latter featuring such symbols on their national side as the Latvian folk-maid, the small or the large coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia.

The people of Latvia are gradually getting accustomed to the dual price display by fair euro introducers who maintain the parity between the lats and the euro in the name of their good business reputation. With 1 January, a reverse dual pricing will be applied yet the parity principle will have to be maintained; it will serve as a confirmation that the bridge leading to the euro has been built on a solid basis and, hence, the people accept the euro notes as favoured items.

The Bank of Latvia is issuing its very last special 1-lats circulation coin, which will be legal tender until the end of the year, to afterwards serve as a tangible proof, preserved in metal, of the exchange rate at the moment of the euro adoption.

The image of the coin can be looked upon as a symbolic tree trunk keeping the roots and the branches, the earth and the sky together. It can be perceived as a road to new dreams, challenges and success. The ability and intelligence to face these challenges and accept new opportunities will be crucial for Latvia and its people in order to take their rightful place, solidly, permanently and with assurance, among the other nations within the common European economic and cultural space. The experience already gained in different spheres of life is the roots that delve deep into the soil; the future lies in the hands of those who chase their dreams. And at this point, there also has to be parity.

Latvian coin "Oh, holy Lestene!"


2013/09/30 14:39

Bank of Latvia is issuing a new collector coin – Oh, holy Lestene!

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 1.2442 g
Diameter: 13.92 mm
Metal: gold of .9999 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2013 by UAB Lietuvos monetų kalykla (Lithuania)
Artists: Laimonis Šēnbergs (graphic design), Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

Obverse
An acanthus leaf design from the side decor of the altar of the Lestene Church is featured in the centre, with the inscriptions LATVIJA 2013 on the left and 1 LATS in its lower part.

Reverse
The head of an angel from the church altar occupies the lower part of the reverse, with the inscription AK, SVĒTĀ LESTENE! (OH, HOLY LESTENE!) semi-circled above it.

Edge
Reeded.

The Lestene Church was once the most spectacular historic religious building in the Latvian countryside. In 1704–1709, the famous Nicolaus Söffrens, Jr., wood carver of the Duke of Courland's Ventspils shipyard, adorned the church with carvings ordered by the owner of the Lestene estate Karl Friedrich von Firks. One of the 15 masterpieces of visual art in the Latvian Cultural Canon is the altar of St. Ann's Church in Liepāja carved by Söffrens, but in Lestene he made a whole set: pulpit, confessional, organ case, pews and patrons' box. The organ, made in 1707 by the most outstanding organ builder of the Baroque period in Latvia Cornelius Rahneus, was concealed behind a magnificent case where, while the organ was played, the carved figures were moved by a mechanism: angels played musical instruments, beating the timpanos and fluttering their wings; King David was the conductor, and, above it all, a great eagle was flapping its wings. The combination of art, spirituality and music at the church had such an impact that churchgoers sometimes dropped to their knees calling out: "Oh, holy Lestene!" This expression of the utmost in surprise, excitement and elation connected to the Lestene Church has become part of Latvian oral tradition.

From the outside, the Lestene Church is stark and simple as are all ancient churches in Courland, but inside the wood carvings echoed the rich Baroque elements: the Corinthian order pilasters, gilded consoles, rosettes and angels' heads. Almost to the very end of World War II everything had survived in its original form, even the hourglass on the edge of the pulpit had lost none of its glass bulbs over the centuries. But then came disastrous times. In February 1945, Soviet artillery shelling caused the church spire to burn down and the altar was damaged. In the post-war period, the church was systematically pillaged and demolished but in 1967 it was turned into a drying kiln. Owing to artist Jurģis Skulme, the sculptures were saved, but in 1964 the surviving carved furnishings were taken to the Tukums Museum. In 1973, all the parts of the ensemble were gathered in the Rundāle Palace Museum where, as of 1983, they could be seen in a partially restored form.

Since 2002, the Evangelical Lutheran parish of Lestene has been gradually repairing the church building, which yet has to be completed, including moving the carved furnishings back to the church and restoring them. As of 2012, the confessional has returned to the church and the Baroque pews have been refurbished. All this work is being financed through donations and small project funding. This coin, however, is not a memorial to a lost masterpiece: it is an appeal to the public and each person individually to help Latvia regain its most outstanding Baroque church and heal the deep wounds caused in Lestene by the war and Soviet power.

The coin features two altar elements: the head of an angel and an acanthus leaf design in the side decor of the altar. This gold coin serves as a reminder of the outstanding artistic value of the Lestene Church and symbolically reflects the magnificence of Söffrens's gilded wood carvings.

Latvian coin "Jāzeps Vītols"


2013/07/03 10:27

Bank of Latvia releases special coin dedicated to Latvian composer Jāzeps Vītols.

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 22.00 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2013 by Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)
Artists: Arvīds Priedīte (graphic design), Jānis Strupulis (plaster model)

Obverse
Jāzeps Vītols's portrait in profile is in the centre of the obverse of the coin. The inscription JĀZEPS VĪTOLS is semi-circled on the left, the digit 1 on top of the inscription LATS is on the right, and Jāzeps Vītols's facsimile signature is at the lower part of the obverse.

Reverse
The lower part of the reverse features five horizontal parallel lines, from which rays of light are spreading out like an arc, with a semi-circled inscription GAISMU SAUCA, GAISMA AUSA (We called for light and there was light) at the top, and the year 2013 at the bottom.

Edge
The inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia) and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA (Republic of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.

Jāzeps Vītols (1863–1948) had two working lives. Before the founding of an independent Latvian state, he was a highly respected professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, music critic, friend of Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov and Glazunov as well as an activist of the Latvian community in St. Petersburg. When it seemed that the time was right to retire and enjoy fishing, a favourite pastime of Vītols, he returned to Latvia at the age of fifty-five and launched a new career: he established a conservatory, thereby laying the cornerstone for professional musical education in the young Latvian state. Up until his departure from Latvia in 1944, Vītols (with a brief hiatus) was head of the conservatory and raised a whole generation of brilliant musicians. With his gleaming pate, aquiline nose, favourably, but not excessively, inclined, invariably sporting a loose tie of white silk, he was always at the centre of the music life of the young country. The memories of Vītols's pupils speak of great respect and love for their teacher.

Vītols was a patriarch of music education. He was also the author of witty, self-ironic memoirs, a knowledgeable (but not necessarily unprejudiced) reviewer of musical events, a good, if not very ambitious, conductor, an active public figure, and, last but not least, a composer. Over the years, he contributed several compositions of instrumental chamber music and piano pieces, some symphonic scores and, at the top of the list, his solo songs (still not fully recognised) and choir songs (recognised, yet seldom performed).

Albeit Vītols worked at a time when national romanticism was dominant, he was rather a representative of classicism. Balance, perfection of form, precision in laying out his thought are paramount in his music. Vītols does not attempt to draw his listener in. His "I" finds its expression in aristocratic reticence, which, nevertheless, is not devoid of passion, tragedy, love, or a good joke.

The Bank of Latvia marks Vītols's 150th anniversary by issuing a collector coin with the motto "Gaismu sauca, gaisma ausa" (We called for light and there was light). And there is indeed much light in Vītols's music, to mention only his choir songs Saules svētki (Celebration of Sun), Saule austrumos (Sun in the East), Diena aust (A New Day Dawning), Jau saulē sārti kvēlo sils (Woods Burnished Red by the Sun), Karaļmeita (King's Daughter) who is weaving new light, morning dawn in the song Pie dzintara jūras (By the Amber Sea), etc. The paths of the light traced in his choir song Gaismas pils (Castle of Light) (1900) are, by all means, one of the most powerful symbols of the Latvian Song Festivals. It is always sung by the great joint mixed choir of the Festival and has been conducted by such masters as Jāzeps Vītols himself, Teodors Kalniņš, Leonīds Vīgners, Haralds Mednis and Imants Kokars. In a sense, Vītols's music and his personality are also the nation's castle of light that can never drown in oblivion.

Latvian coin "Richard Wagner"


2013/06/03 09:31

New Latvian Coin dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner.

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 22.00 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2013 by Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)
Artists: Aigars Ozoliņš (graphic design of obverse), Ivo Grundulis (graphic design of reverse) and Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

Obverse
In the centre of obverse, there is a sailing ship in the billowing sea, with semi-circled inscription 1 LATS on the right and the year 2013 at bottom left.

Reverse
Reverse features Richard Wagner's portrait in profile in the centre, his facsimile signature at bottom left, and a semi-circled inscription RĪGA and the years 1837–1839 on the right.

Edge
Inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia) and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA (Republic of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.

Richard Wagner (1813–1883), a genius of German music, served as main bandmaster at the Riga City Theatre from August 1837 to June 1839. After Wagner was dismissed from this post, his successor Heinrich Dorn had this to say: "There were no serious objections against him as a bandmaster, but his unmistakably artistic nature failed to conform to civic relationships as soon as they became limited by debit and credit."

On 25 June 1839, Richard Wagner conducted the last guest performance in Mitau (now Jelgava) and decided not to return to Riga where an unpaid promissory note to merchant Robert Hafferberg and a debt to the Koenigsberg merchant Schirach Sternberg, who had already launched court proceedings against Wagner harming the latter's reputation, were waiting for him. After the performance, Wagner with his wife Minna and dog Robert, under the cover of the night and fog, secretly crossed the border between Russia and Prussia to go to the Prussian port Pillau (now Baltiysk, Kaliningrad region). From there, on 19 July 1839, Wagner embarked on his sea voyage that proved an inspiration to his opera "The Flying Dutchman", during a storm reading "From the Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski" by Heinrich Heine, which he had purchased in Riga.

Riga was the second city which in 1843, a few months after its Dresden premiere, saw a performance of "The Flying Dutchman". This opera was important not only to the German culture and the Baltic German circles of Riga. Wagner's youthful masterpiece was also performed in Latvian on 18 November 1918 at the solemn occasion of proclaiming Latvia's statehood, with the audience, opera choir and orchestra repeating "God, Bless Latvia!" by Baumaņu Kārlis, what was to become the Latvian national anthem, three times before the ouverture. "The Flying Dutchman" performed by the Latvian Opera became the first staging watched by the citizens of the new country the very next day.

The style of Wagner's musical dramas, where the swelling and even exaggeration of means of artistic expression became an aesthetic norm, was one of the elements that contributed to the triumph of eclecticism and art nouveau in Riga at the turn of the 20th century. The author of the grandiose scores, the most famous of the composers who spent a part of their careers in Riga, made sure to create a spectacular milieu around himself even when his material well-being was not at its best. He explained it as follows: "If anyone but guessed what luxury replaces for me, I would be considered a very modest being." As a result of his indebtedness, Wagner could not leave Paris in 1839–1842; even the success of his operas "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" did not bring financial security. Only the miracle of the invitation from King Ludwig II of Bavaria to come and work at his court in Munich gave Wagner the respite from debt and allowed him to fully dedicate himself to creative work.

The coin "Rihards Vāgners" issued by the Bank of Latvia is a dedication to the composer on the occasion of the 200th anniversary since his birth and a memorial to his active life period in Riga when he began work at his first important opera "Rienzi", taking away the solutions dictated by the limitations of what is now known as Wagner Hall (the seating arrangement with an incline to improve visibility, an unlit auditorium and lit stage as well as the deeper orchestra pit) as innovations for the Bayreuth theatre.

Latvian coin "Rūdolfs Blaumanis"


2013/04/11 16:19

Bank of Latvia is putting into circulation a collector coin dedicated to Rūdolfs Blaumanis.

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 22.00 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2012 by Regia Autonomǎ Monetǎria Statului (Romania).
Artists: Aigars Ozoliņš (graphic design) and Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

Obverse
A homestead surrounded by trees, nestling on a tree leaf, is depicted in the centre of the obverse. The inscriptions LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA, arranged in a semicircle, and 1 LATS are placed above and beneath the central motif.

Reverse
The right field features the portrait of Rūdolfs Blaumanis on the background of the titles of the writer's works and the Eurostar logo of the "European Silver Programme". The inscription "Rūdolfs Blaumanis" is placed in the left lower part of the reverse, with the year 2013 below the portrait.

Edge
Two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.

It seems there is hardly any Latvian who has never seen "Skroderdienas Silmačos" (Tailor Days at Silmači) by Rūdolfs Blaumanis (1863–1908), with its Midsummer Night's atmosphere and vivid characters drawn from rural life. The comedy "No saldenās pudeles" (From the Sweet Bottle) also pokes inoffensive fun at country life and morals. This master of humour was the editor of the satirical supplement "Purva mala" (On Swamp's Edge) to "Pēterburgas Avīzes" (St. Petersburg Gazette), a Latvian newspaper out of St. Petersburg in the early 20th century and later in the newspaper "Latvija".

Yet Blaumanis's most important contribution to Latvian literature is his serious work in fiction and drama: "Indrāni", "Ugunī" (Into the Fire), "Nāves ēnā" (In the Shadow of Death), "Purva bridējs" (The Swamp Wader), "Raudupiete", "Salna pavasarī" (Frost in Spring) and many others. They draw their power from the masterful depiction of entangled relationships and contradictions among people and their often tragic resolution. Blaumanis's works lack pseudo-national sentimentality, the life they reflect is never idealised. There are hardly any among Latvian writers that have portrayed the life and way of thinking of country people as realistically and impressively. The timeframe in these plays and short stories is the turn of the 20th century when Latvians started thinking of themselves as a nation and the foundation was laid for future statehood. His protagonists are rooted in the Latvian nature, yet their appeal is universal. The search for human harmony is centred around the ideal of family and native land. It is hardly surprising, given that Blaumanis lived in one of the most picturesque places in northern Latvia.

The portrayal of Latvian national character in Blaumanis's literary works bears comparison with his Swedish contemporaries Anders Zorn and Carl Larsson who in their art gave a concentrated visual definition of a typical Swede, his or her lifestyle, principles and worldview. This national character is not fixed historically: many of the themes and problems related to it can be found in contemporary life as well.

The motifs found in Blaumanis's works have inspired also film directors, notably Jānis Streičs who once said: "Blaumanis has written down the code of our national character and if we can decipher it, we get closer to our roots and our self-respect. Through this code we assign our nation's story to eternity. Whoever deciphers this code knows who Latvians are."

Blaumanis was also an accomplished poet. Lines from his poem of 1902, "The Bugler of Tālava" are assigned to national memory. The medieval guard in the poem does not accept a bribe from the enemy and sacrifices his life to warn the fighters sleeping in the castle. What he says to the enemy was also Blaumanis's credo:
"My gold is my people,
My pride is my people's pride!
Whoever comes to destroy it,
Shall perish and ride to hell!"

Celebrating Rūdolfs Blaumanis's contribution to Latvian culture as a veritable gold deposit, the Bank of Latvia has issued a coin dedicated to the 150th anniversary since his birth.

Latvian coin "Baby coin"


2013/04/11 16:15

Bank of Latvia is issuing a new collector coin – the Baby Coin.

Face value: 1 lats
Weight: 22.00 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness
Quality: proof
Struck in 2013 by UAB Lietuvos monetų kalykla (Lithuania)
Artists: Anita Paegle (graphic design), Jānis Strupulis (plaster model)

Obverse
In the centre of the obverse, there is a cradle, held by a bird, with a baby in it. The inscription LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA is semi-circled beneath it.

Reverse
The reverse features a mouse pulling a chest, with the inscription "1 lats" below.

Edge
The inscription LATVIJAS BANKA and the year 2013, each repeated twice, are separated by rhombic dots.

"Sweet little baby, welcome to this world! You were expected, we have great hopes for you, we wish you all the happiness in the world!" These and similar ones are the thoughts and words with which parents usually greet their newly arrived offspring. The Latvian expecting mothers and newborn babies were protected and cared for by the pagan goddess Laima, whereas elsewhere in the world it was a task performed by other deities and spirits: for ancient Greeks, it was the goddess Eileithyia supported by Hera and Artemis; for the Romans, it was Juno.

The parents' joy over the new birth is shared by the close and more distant relatives and friends as well as colleagues. In some countries, the excitement over the expected newcomer is expressed even before the birth. Thus, for instance, in the United States, there is the baby shower thrown for the expectant mother by her girlfriends. Europeans tend to be more cautious, but in Latvia there is the tradition, celebrated in many folk-songs, of visiting the newborn about a month after his or her arrival.  

Along with wishes of happiness and good health we tend to bring the newborn some present as a material, tangible evidence of our good will. In the old days, it often was a loaf of homemade bread as well as something more lasting that could be used right away: a piece of clothing, a baby carriage, a toy or a book of good advice. Often the present is something valuable reminding the recipient later in life that his or her arrival in this world was met with great joy. Many a jewellery box contains a silver spoon or horseshoe shaped brooch, a golden cross or heart on a chain. A popular present is a silver or gold coin serving as a symbolic starting capital for a materially secure life.

The Baby Coin issued by the Bank of Latvia is just such a present. The concept behind it is the wish to secure family ties, for children represent an existential issue for any country and nation. Both the giver and the taker of present, the Baby Coin, will enjoy the little mouse on the reverse of the coin pulling a chest full of sweet dreams. Join in and put also the Baby Coin in the chest!

Latvian coin "Silver Salmon"


2013/03/05 08:18

Face value: 20 lats
Weight: 11.00 g
Diameter: 21.75 mm
Metal: silver of .925 fineness;
Quality: proof
Struck in 2013 by UAB Lietuvos monetų kalykla (Lithuania)
Artists: Gunārs Lūsis (graphic design), Jānis Strupulis (plaster model)

Obverse
The large coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia, with the year 2013 inscribed below, is placed in the centre. The inscriptions LATVIJAS and REPUBLIKA, each arranged in a semicircle, are above and beneath the central motif, respectively.

Reverse
A salmon, the symbol of Latvia's abundant water resources, is shown jumping out of the water from left to right. The numeral 20, with the inscription LATS in a semicircle beneath it, is centered in the lower part of the coin.

Edge
Two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia), separated by rhombic dots.

Cherished and treasured, pleasant to hold and to contemplate, our Latvian one-lats coin is the basic unit of the entire family of lats. Many of us call it lasītis, the Latvian endearment for salmon, for it is the Latvian salmon, lasis, whose image has been adorning the reverse of the coin for twenty years. Caught in its leap above the water, this is how one of the best Latvian designers, Gunārs Lūsis, conceived it. The artist is a master-fisherman himself, yet in the gracefulness in the salmon's midair leap he has managed to detect deep symbolism.

Salmon on the one-lats coin is not just a delicious variety of fish found in the Latvian waters. Salmon is the king of the water and a symbol that ascertains Latvian love of nature that is a basic national trait. To be out in the nature, it is a lifestyle and a way of seeing the world. With the vitality of a salmon, the Latvian once leapt from the rural world into the urbanised and urbane civilisation. Salmon points to the value of labour in a direct and indirect sense: following the work ethic, and putting away coin after coin, people have managed to accumulate substantial wealth. The salmon symbol also points to one of the basic occupations of the Latvians, fishing, as well as to the impact on our lives of water – be it river, lake or the sea. Not only the soil and the forest, but also the rich waters have been feeding the Latvian people for centuries.

If we consider the circulation of money as part and parcel of the blood circulation of the economy at large, the one-lats coin can be seen as a tiny blood cell. The weight, power and energy of the lats is a reflection of the power and intellectual capabilities of the nation.

Twenty years is almost as long a time period that Latvia existed before World War II. The first issue of lats at that time helped to bring about economic success. Time has passed amazingly quickly in nowadays as well. To many, twenty years may seem just a brief moment after the freedom barricades that seemed to have happened only yesterday; yet it is a period that contains many historic events and accomplishments; there have been great hopes and successes but also mistakes and failures. At times headstrong and proud, at other times humble and prudent, we have a stable position in the world at large.

The Bank of Latvia is commemorating the birth date of the Latvian lats by issuing a silver replica of the original one-lats coin with a twenty times increased nominal value.