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

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.