Top Historic Sights in Läänemaa, Estonia

Explore the historic highlights of Läänemaa

Kullamaa Church

The oldest remaining parts of the Jaani (St. John’s) Church were built in the end of 13th century. It was enlarged in 1865 and partially reconstructed couple of years later. The interior is mainly from the 17th century and represents Renaissance and Baroque styles. In the church graveyard is an old tombstone from the year 1621 with text “Sitta Kodt Matz”. The limestone tomb is oldest remaining in Estoni ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Läänemaa, Estonia

Koluvere Castle

The water fortress of Koluvere was established in the 13th century by the bishop’s vassal Lode. The tower fortress, convention hall and cannon tower were built later. This place has been a battlefield both during St. George’s Night uprising as well as during the Livonian war. In 1439 it became one of residences of Saare-Lääne bishop. In the 17th century the fortress was turned into a manor ensemble. In 1771 the empr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Läänemaa, Estonia

Hanila Church

The church of St. Paul in Hanila was built in 1260s. It has been reconstructed several times, for example the tower was added in 1857-1859. During the last restoration significant mural paintings were founded from the inner walls. The altar and pulpit date back to the year 1709. There are also several interesting tombstones in the near cemetery. Oldest 18 tombs, so-called trapezoid gravestones, date back to the 13th cent ...
Founded: 1260's | Location: Läänemaa, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).