The cathedral is dedicated to Saint James the Greater. It is frequently referred to by the incorrect name St. Jacob. The confusion arises because Latvian, like many other languages, uses the same word for James and Jacob.
The church building was dedicated in 1225. It was not originally a cathedral since the Rīgas Doms served that function. At the beginning of the 15th century the Holy Cross Chapel was built at the south end of the early Gothic church, and part of the church was transformed into a basilica.
In 1901 the oldest Baroque altar in Riga from 1680 was replaced by a new one. Following a referendum in 1923, the building was given back to the Catholics for use as their cathedral since the Rīgas Doms was now an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral.