1. The Freedom Monument
It is recommendable to start a tour around Riga's historical centre from a sacred place of the Latvian nation – the Freedom Monument. This outstanding artistic work devoted to the Latvian struggle for independence and liberty was developed in the period from 1931 to 1935 on the basis of the collected sources by the Latvian nation. The creators of the Monument are Kārlis Zāle (1888 – 1942), a famous Latvian sculptor, and Ernests Štālbergs (1883 - 1958), an architect. The major statue of Freedom, overlooking the prominent buildings of Riga centre and the tops of surrounding trees, was sculptured in metal by Ragnar Mirsmeden (1889 – 1989), a Swedish sculptor, and by Jānis Zibens (1909 – 1967) and Arnolds Naika (1908 - 1998), a Latvian metal artists. The monument is formed from a frame of reinforced concrete that is “garbed” from surface in stone: granite and travertine. The granite for construction of the monument was extracted from stone-pits in Finland, and travertine – from the quarry of Luigi Bartolini in Tivoli, Italy. The monument consists of a platform and a broad sculptural composition in several volumes. Moving above, they end with an obelisk in the height of 19 metres and with the statue of Freedom above it in the height of 9 metres.
The thirteen sculptural groups and mouldings of the Freedom Monument are ordered in four layers. The mouldings are located on both sides of the terrace ascent (7 x 4.5m): moulding on the left side is “the Latvian Riflemen”, and on the right – “the Latvian Nation: Singers”. The lower zone of the statues, four groups of sculptures with a height of 3.5 metres, is devoted to the fundamental power of life and nation. These statues are called “Work”, “the Guardians of the Motherland”, “Mother – Family Preserver” and “the Creators of Spiritual Life”. The mouldings located in the above-mentioned zone (3.5 x 4.5m) tell about the Revolution of 1905 and developments of the Latvian Liberation struggle. The major figures in the middle zone (5.5 x 6m) express the ideals of the nation and testify to its readiness to stand guard to its cultivation of rye (“the Statue of Latvia”), to burst the bonds of slavery (“the Burster of Bonds”), to rise for the fight against hostile rule (“Lāčplēsis”), and at the crucial moment to also invite the youth (“Vaidelotis”).
The Monument is crowned by the statue of Freedom: a statue of a woman hammered in copper holding in her raised hands three golden stars – the symbols of solidarity between Latvia's cultural history districts: Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Latgale. The basic idea embodied in the statue of Freedom: the highest value for the nation is territorial community and the freedom of Latvia.