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SUBATE (SUBBATH)

            Subate is a town on the border with Lithuania, on the shores of Lake Subate (66 km south of Jēkabpils). It is currently administratively part of Daugavpils District. In the second half of the 16th century, a settlement of artisans and merchants grew up on the western shore of Lake Subate. In the 17th century its inhabitants split into two mutually intolerant camps: Lutherans and Catholics. The Catholics gained the upper hand, and in 1676 they took St. George’s Church away from the Lutherans. The latter moved to the eastern shore of Lake Subate to the lands of Hektor Frederick von Saken, and the village of Jaunsubate (“new Subate”) emerged. In 1894 Subate and Jaunsubate were administratively merged as Subate, which was granted a town charter in 1917.
            Lovers of art and architecture are drawn to this quite remote place by Subate Lutheran Church (1685), which is of a type like no other in Latvia. The composition of this unusual place of worship brings to life the efforts of the reformed church to find an ideal model for preaching Luther’s teachings. The Subate church is formed as a compact, cubic structure with one single spatially joined hall covered by a grandiose cylindrical arch. The church’s interior is also unique. The altar, pulpit, confessional, base of the baptizing bowl and organ loft decorations were the work of the Stelmuže wood carvers in their typical, inimitable, naïve style, who otherwise worked in Catholic rather than Lutheran churches. The painting “Christ and the Sinning Woman” by an unknown artist hanging in the church (late 17th century) is also of high artistic quality.

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