Latvia, located on the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks,” has long been in the sphere of interconnections between the north and the south from the Pontic (Black) Sea to the cold waters. This circumstance contributed to the early penetration of Christianity on the banks of the Dvina (Daugava), which had been known since ancient times. The chronicle of Nestor (according to the Lavrentiev list) states: “Dnepr more flowed from the Volkovsky forest, and flowed in half a day, and Dvina from the same forest flowed to the polnoysh and entered the Sea of Voriazhsky.”
According to the Dvina, according to ancient tradition, the Apostle Andrew the First-Called, preaching the Word of God, reached the shores of the Baltic and headed by sea to Scandinavia. In these ways, as well as along the roads leading to Pskov, Smolensk and Veliky Novgorod, Orthodoxy also spread itself. It has never been planted by anyone, not prescribed and not imposed by force. Orthodoxy was perceived by local people in communion with the Belarusians, Great Russians, who from ancient times communicated and lived with the tribes of Letighol, villages, zemgala, Kors, Leaves, Vendians (of Slavic origin).
It is noteworthy that it was Vends that gave such names as the Venta River, Vindava (Ventspils), and Venden (Cesis). It is characteristic that the Germans called the Vendians Russians, and the Estonians called the Russians the word “Vened”.
Since ancient times, the tribes living in the territory of modern Latvia, widely communicated among themselves. This is especially evident in the vocabulary. So, in the Latvian language in all areas of spiritual and material culture there are many lexical borrowings: baznīsa (divine), svetit (holy), svece (candle), Lieldienas (Easter-Velikdeni), zvanīt (call), nerediļ (week); gads (year), etc.
About the early self-propagation of Orthodoxy in the territory of Latvia say the found objects of life, crosses, images of St.. George of those distant years.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Orthodox people lived not only along the banks of the Dvina, but also Gauja, Venta, Lielupe, the Gulf of Riga, as well as in a number of German, Swedish, Finnish and even German lands. At the same time, it is reliably known that in history there has not been a single case of violent planting of the Orthodox faith in these parts.
By the beginning of the XI century, on the territory of Latvia there were already such outstanding Orthodox spiritual centers as Jersika. Here, according to the chronicles of the Catholic Heinrich of Latvia, there were several temples with richly decorated icons, utensils made of expensive metals, and magnificent frescoes.
On the right bank of the mouth of the Daugava (Dvina) was the first church built in these parts, consecrated in the name of St. Nicholas, patron sailing and traveling.
Catholic missionary work in this region began much later. For this, the permission of the Prince of Polotsk Vladimir, who gave his consent, was first requested. From that time on, the Orthodox Church for several centuries found itself in the hardest conditions. Already at the end of the XII and at the beginning of the XIII century, the forcible imposition of the “Latin” faith began in these parts. The knights of the Order of the Sword with fire and sword ravaged and destroyed such Orthodox spiritual centers as Jersika, Atzel, Lucane (Ludza), Kukenois (Koknese), ancient Tolovo (between Smiltene and Valmiera), Venden (Cesis) and others. And only the Church of St. Nicholas in Riga survived and remained active for about three centuries.
In the middle of the XVI century, Livonia collapsed. The lands north of the Dvina were ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Courland bishopric was sold to the Danish king. The northern part, together with Revel (Tallinn), fell under the authority of the King of Sweden Gustav P. Adolf. Courland remained at the mercy of Poland. In Daugavpils firmly established Jesuits.
However, in these difficult conditions, the Orthodox Church was not destroyed. In 1570 the Orthodox Episcopal Department was founded in Yuriev (Tartu), on which His Grace Bishop Cornelius was placed.
In Ilukste, according to the testimony of Jesuit A. Posevin, only Orthodox lived (1582). But it was precisely in these years that the widespread planting of Uniatism began as a transitional stage in the conversion of the Orthodox Church to Catholicism.