21 February, 2019
The exhibition, which can be visited in the Supreme Court since February 21, tells about the Palace of Justice – a symbol of justice and a monument of Latvian architecture.
Considering that “the court is a cultural institution and a sign of culture”, one of the most beautiful buildings in Riga – the Palace of Justice – was built for the needs of the Latvian courts. In December 1936, the foundation stone of the new building was solemnly laid, and in December 1938 the building was consecrated and the work of the Senate and other judicial institutions began.
The exhibition shows evidence of competition of ideas for the construction of the Palace of Justice, as well as evidence of the laying of the foundation stone and of a country-wide event – opening of the Palace of Justice. It is interesting to learn about designs that were submitted by artists for the creation of sculpture for the Palace of Justice, as well as to find out where the sculpture “Justice” (also called “Laima”, “Themis”) designed by Karlis Zemdega was kept during Soviet years. Currently, it adorns the central lobby of the Palace of Justice, where now is the Cabinet of Ministers.
The fate of the three founders of the Palace of Justice is striking testimony of the history of Latvia. Fridrihs Skujins, the architect of the Palace of Justice, went into exile after the Soviet occupation and was a well-known architect in Germany. Building contractor Mikelis Vaitnieks died in the Gulag camp in Usolyag, but sculptor Karlis Zemdega stayed in Latvia and worked as professor in the Art Academy. The exhibition presents documents about their engagement in construction works of the Palace of Justice and interesting facts about their work.
One of the sections in the exhibition is dedicated to the Senate of Latvia – the highest court instance, which had been allocated central premises in the Palace of Justice. In the Palace of Justice the Senate worked for a very short period of time – until the Soviet occupation in 1940, when the Senate was liquidated, senators were released from office, and the Soviet government and other institutions took over the building.
When the independence of Latvia was restored in the 1990s, the Supreme Court had to fight to prove that its right to return to the building of the Palace of Justice was “legally, morally and historically justified”. The exhibition shows the historic decision of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court “About the Palace of Justice”, the sketches of the unimplemented project of a new court building, photographs of the return of the Supreme Court to the building of the Palace of Justice and exhibits showing the first years of operation of the restored Supreme Court.
Visitors will find interesting photos showing the same premises back then and now: the Courtroom of the Senate – now the Government Hall, Chief Prosecutor's Office – now Court’s Reading Room, the cabinet of the chair of Senate’s Assembly – now the cabinet of chair of a department. Although the Supreme Court is currently located only in a part of the building of the Palace of Justice, the Palace of Justice is still a symbol of Latvian courts; the most significant photographs are captured by the sculpture “Justice”, the highest award of the Supreme Court is the “Themis Award”, and the Palace of Justice and the “Justice” as symbols are being used in designing souvenirs, commemorative medals, even puzzles. All this can be seen at the exhibition.
Materials from the Supreme Court Museum, the Latvian State Historical Archives, and the National Museum of Art are used for creation of the exhibition. Cooperation partner in creation of the exhibition: State Chancellery.
Visitors to the Supreme Court can see an exhibition of the history of the Palace of Justice in the lobby of the first floor. If the purpose of the visit is to see the exhibition – the pass has to be requested in the Division of Communication, and a visitor has to present an identity document – passport or ID card.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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