Roman Catholics are the Latvia’s second largest faith, predominant in eastern Latvia (Latgale) and followed by 20-25% of total population. Its followers are Latgallians and migrants from there, some southern Latvians, as well as Latvia’s Polish and Lithuanian minorities.

The holiest place of Latvia’s Catholics is Aglona and its Basilica of the Assumption where a massive religious festival takes place every 15th of August. The sacred painting of Virgin Mary is venerated there.

Aglona Basilica
Baroque Aglona Basilica. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

In general, Catholic church interiors are more popmpous than Lutheran ones as Catholic faith puts more emphasis on religious items and art.

Latvia used to be nearly all-Catholic in late Medieval era when crusading German knights converted it from paganism. Catholicism lost ground after the same German nobility adopted Lutheranism in 16th century (and Latvian peasants followed suit). In Latgale however Catholic Poles and Lithuanians had a direct rule in 16th-18th centuries, funding lavish Baroque churches such as Aglona and helping Catholicism to retain majority.

Roman Catholic church managed to survive the Soviet persecutions better than Lutherans due to its more religious nature and foreign support. The share of Catholics remained constant at ~25%. Therefore, while Lutheran adherents outnumbered Roman Catholics by 2-to-1 in 1935, today their congregations are similar in size according to many statistics.

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