Top Historic Sights in Saaremaa, Estonia

Explore the historic highlights of Saaremaa

Mihkli Farm Museum

Mihkli Farm Museum, found in 1959, is a previous farm typical to West-Saaremaa, with many architectural sights as well. Most buildings lie in a circle around the yard, part of which is separated by a stick fence as flower garden. Farm is surrounded by old ash trees, leafy branches used to be cut from them for sheep's winter feed. In addition to a complete set of buildings there was a rich collection of everyday items ...
Founded: 1959 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Kihelkonna Church

The building of St. Michael’s church in Kihelkonna was probably started in the mid-13th century and completed between 1270-1290. In the early Middle Ages Kihelkonna was one of the most important centers in Saaremaa. It was situated on the road connecting the western part of Saaremaa with mainland Estonia. There was also a harbor of considerable importance here. Both the Bishop and the Livonian Order contributed to t ...
Founded: ca. 1250-1290 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Karja Church

The towerless Gothic style church of St. Catherine in Karja is the smallest church in Saaremaa island. The church was built in the late 13th or early 14th century. Although small, it is the one of the most beautiful churches in Saaremaa. The architectural design of the church is simple: a two bayed nave, a choir and a vestry. It is the sculptural decor that makes the church a real jewel. Its portals, bosses and vaulting s ...
Founded: 13-14th century | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Valjala Church

Saint Martin's Church of Valjala is the oldest church in Estonia. Immediately after the conquest of 1227, a stone chapel was erected by Teutonic knights in Valjala not far from the ancient stronghold. Its walls form the lower part of the present church choir. On the southern side of the chapel, there was a vestry. Soon after completion, the chapel was decorated with murals, the remaining fragments of which may be see ...
Founded: 1227 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Mustjala Church

The Lutheran church of Mustjala was completed in 1863. It was designed by architect D. I. Grim from St. Petersburg. The tower of church has been an important landmark for seafarers. Today Mustajala Church is popular venue for concerts in summer season.
Founded: 1863 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Kõljala Manor

The earliest records of Kõljala manor date to 1509. Traces of the oldest construction have been preserved in the cellars, and these date to the 17th century. In those days the manor belonged to Otto von Poll, a leader of the Saaremaa German nobility. His lifestyle was somewhat different from the rest, and this was reflected in the furnishings of the manor house. Although the house itself was of one-story limestone ...
Founded: 1760-1770 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Angla Windmills

There has been a windmill park in Angla about hundred years. Five of the original nine windmills still remain, most of them built in 1920’s. One of them is a Dutch-style windmill with turnable tower.
Founded: 1920's | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

St. Mary's Church

The current building of Pöide Church is believed to be built on the remains of a chapel built in 13th century. After the conquest of Saaremaa in 1227, the eastern part of Saaremaa belonged to the Livonian Order, who built a fortress at Pöide as their headquarters during the second half of the 13th century. This fortress was destroyed by the Saaremaa natives during the wave of uprisings against the occupying forc ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Dejevo Military Base

Dejevo village was established during the Soviet era. There were several missile bases and garrisons around the village. After soldiers left and missiles were hauled away, the village was totally abandoned. In 2011 most of the brick and concrete buildings on the surface were demolished.
Founded: 1940-1991 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Loona Manor

Small Loona manor-house in Kihelkonna is a vivid example of a long and complex story of reaching it's present form. Oldest parts of the building date back to Middle Ages, the cellar uses battlements of an old vassal-castle built in the 16th century. Next major stage of building took place in 1785-1786, when the building was given most of it's present appearance. Today Loona manor hosts a guesthouse, café a ...
Founded: 1785-1786 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Kaarma Church

The medieval church of Saint Peter and Paul in Kaarma is one of the most interesting sights in Saaremaa island. The building was probably started right after the uprising of Saaremaa inhabitants in 1261. It was a typical church of the Osilia Bishophric - a simple nave with a slightly narrower choir. The steeple was added in the 15th century and thus Kaarma became the first church with a steeple on Saaremaa. The church is ...
Founded: ca. 1261 | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Maasi Fortress Ruins

Maasi medieval fort-castle was built with the forced labour of islanders. That's how the ruling Liivi order punished indigenous inhabitants for the uprising, which had destroyed orders previous stronghold. Seaside fort-castle was undefeated until destroyed by Danes. The fortress was blown up in 1576 by the Danes in an attempt to forestall the Swedish invasion and nothing was done for the next 300 years. 8m walls that ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Asva Settlement

Behind the small Asva village on a low-lying hayfield is located one of the most archaeologically important bronze-age sites in Northern Europe. This site, Asva, has given its name to an entire culture. Asva culture was the westernmost reach of the Finno-Ugrian late Bronze Age culture. This culture was based on herding, seal hunting, the beginnings of agriculture and, bronze casting. During the Bronze Age, the ridge on w ...
Founded: 1000-500 BC | Location: Saaremaa, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.