Medieval churches in Estonia

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas' Church (Niguliste kirik) is a medieval church in Tallinn. The church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron of the fishermen and sailors. It was founded and built around 1230-1275 by Westphalian merchants, who came from Gotland in the 13th century. While the city was still unfortified, the church had heavy bars for closing the entrances, loopholes and hiding places for refugees. When the fortificatio ...
Founded: 1230-1270 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Martna Church

The single-nave St. Martin’s Church was built by Johannes Orgas, the bishop of Saare-Läänemaa (Ösel-Wiek), in the beginning of 16th century. His shield is located in the church wall, above the north portal. The oldest artefact inside the church is a Gotland-style baptising stone. Also valuable are the altar wall and Empire style pulpit. The church’s collection of 17th-18th century epitaph coat o ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Läänemaa, Estonia

Tartu Cathedral

Tartu Cathedral (Estonian Tartu toomkirik) is one of the landmarks of the city of Tartu. The building is now an imposing ruin overlooking the lower town. In the small part of it that has been renovated is now located the museum of the University of Tartu, which the university also uses for major receptions. The hill on which the cathedral later stood (Toomemägi or "cathedral hill") was one of the largest strongholds ...
Founded: 1250-1300 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary’s Cathedral was originally established by Danes on 13th century and it is the oldest church in Tallinn and mainland Estonia. It is also the only building in Toompea which survived a 17th century fire. The first church was made of wood and built there most likely already in 1219 when the Danes invaded Tallinn. In 1229 when the Dominican monks arrived, they started building a stone church replacing the old ...
Founded: 1229 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Olaf's Church

St. Olaf’s Church (Oleviste kirik) is believed to have been built in the 12th century and to have been the centre for old Tallinn's Scandinavian community prior to the conquest of Tallinn by Denmark in 1219. Its dedication relates to King Olaf II of Norway (a.k.a. Saint Olaf, 995-1030). The first known written records referring to the church date back to 1267, and it was extensively rebuilt during the 14th century. ...
Founded: 1267 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St John's Church

St. John's Church was probably built in the first third of the 14th century as a three-nave basilica. The church was damaged in the Russian- Livonian War in the 16th century; lightning has set its spire on fire several times. Some parts of the church were destroyed in the Great Nordic War in 1708. In the end of 19th century external walls of St. John's Church were cleaned of limewash, the original shape of the ch ...
Founded: 1300-1330 | Location: Tartu, Estonia

The Church of Holy Spirit

The Church of Holy Spirit is the only sacred building from 14th-century Tallinn preserved its original form. The church was originally founded as part of the neighbouring Holy Spirit Almshouse, which tended to the town's sick and elderly. Throughout Medieval times it remained the primary church of the common folk. First Estonian-language sermons were held there, and the famous Livonian chronicler Balthasar Russow work ...
Founded: 1319 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Kadrina Church

The construction of Kadrina (St. Catherine) Church was started in the mid-15th century. It had also a defensive purpose; narrow windows, thick walls and the room on top of the vault could be used as hideout. The tower was added later. The interior originates from different centuries. The German crucifix is made in 1490’s, pulpit in 1745 and altar mainly in the19th century. Reference: Tapio Mäkeläinen 200 ...
Founded: 1450-1490 | Location: Kadrina, Estonia

Keila Church

Keila Church is the biggest medieval country church in Harju county, which was obviously established shortly after the North Estonia was occupied by Danes. In 1280 a spacious square chapel was established at "Keila hill", where today there is the chancel of the church. Fragments of the paintings at the chancel walls date possibly from this period already. The main body of the church remained unbuilt at the beginning and w ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Keila, Estonia

Puhja Church

The church of Puhja was originally built in the 14th century. It has been damaged in a war and restored at least twice, in 1490’s and 1630’s. Church interior was modified to the the present neo-Gothic appearance in the 19th century. In the churchyard you can find a memorial dedicated to the Estonian War of Independence, and memorial stones dedicated to the local schoolmaster Käsu Hans, and father and son ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Puhja, Estonia

Jõhvi Church

The church of St. Michael (Mihkli) was built in the mid-15th century and it is the biggest one-nave church in Estonia. It was originally constructed as a fortress church; two meter thick walls, narrow windows and the surrounding moat made it easy to defend. The church has been damaged in wars and restored several times. The unique detail of the Jõhvi church is a great vaulted cellar, which is today renovated as a ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Jõhvi, Estonia

Põlva Church

The church of Blessed Virgin Mary was originally built in the early 13th century and it was probably the first stone church in Southern Estonia. The current stone church was built in the late 15th century to the grounds of the earlier church. It has been damaged in Livonian Wars and Great Northern War and restored later. The interesting details in the church are the old altar painting The Last Supper (1650) and the altar ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Põlva, Estonia

Saha Chapel

The chapel in Saha used to be one of the oldest ecclesiastical centres of Rävala Maakond (Shire). Originally, Saha Church was made of wood, it was burnt down around 1223. Four cult stones with small hollows dating from the 1st millennium BC, located close to the chapel indicate that it had been an ancient cult place. The current chapel was built by builders from Tallinn in the second quarter of the 15th century. Str ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Harjumaa, Estonia

Kose Church

The first church in Kose was built probably around 1220 and it was inaugurated to St. Nicholas. The present stone church date back to the mid-14th century, although it was mainly renovated to the Neo-Gothic shape in the 19th century. The interior consists a tomb from the 1400’s, pulpit made in 1639 and baroque-style altarpiece (1774).
Founded: 1350 | Location: Kose, Estonia

Suure-Jaani Church

The Church of Great Saint John the Baptist was built as a Gothic style fort-church probably in the end of 13th century but before 1330's. It is a typical Central-Estonian church with three naves. There is a rectangular east choir and tetragonal west tower. The portals of the church are remarkable. During the wars the pillars and arches of the church were destroyed. Supposedly, the church had round pillars. The wooden ceil ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Suure-Jaani, Estonia

Jõelähtme Church

Jõelähtme church is one of the oldest churches in Harjumaa County. The building of Gothic-styled church was started in 1220s and completed in the beginning of 14th century. Jõelähtme church was consecrated to Virgin Mary. The church has been rebuilt several times. The last rebuilding in 1910 was carried out after a conflagration: the gable end tower was replaced by a massive tower erected in front ...
Founded: ca. 1220 | Location: Jõelähtme, Estonia

Simuna Church

Simuna church is one of the oldest in Estonia although its exact building time is unknown. It has been destroyed in wars and rebuilt again several times during centuries, at least in 1728-29 and also 1885-86. From the old church has remained part of a tower that was used on protective purposes. The altar was made by C. Ackermann, a famous wood carver and the altarpiece was made by Carl Sigismund Walther. The organ was bui ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Simuna, Estonia

Rannu Church

St Martin’s Church of Rannu dates back to the 15th century. The wooden belfry was added in 1835. As the unique detail the wooden pulpit, made in the mid-16th century, is the oldest one in Estonia. Reference: Tapio Mäkeläinen 2005. Viro - kartanoiden, kirkkojen ja kukkaketojen maa. Tammi, Helsinki, Finland.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Rannu, Estonia

Ridala Church

The oldest parts of the Ridala church were built in the late 13th century. It was expanded in the 15th century when the tower was built on the southern side. Ridala Church is one of the most valuable churches in Läänemaa from the artistic point of view. It has been dedicated to Mary Magdalene whose figure in the church is one of the oldest sculptured figures in Estonia. The medieval paintings, altar, triumphal ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ridala, Estonia

Palamuse Church

The church of St. Bartholomew in Palamuse is one of the oldest medieval churches in southern Estonia. The three-nave church was probably completed in 1234. It was damaged heavily during Livonian Wars, but rebuilt in Baroque-style. Two medieval tombstones, baroque reredos and pulpit with several carvings (1696) are survived and visible in the church.
Founded: 1234 | Location: Palamuse, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

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Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.