Medieval churches in 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

Noarootsi Church

Noarootsi church is the youngest fortification church in Estonia, built around 1500. It served the congregation of Swedes living on Estonia coast, but also held a defence function. Currently, it is one of the three churches in Estonia with plank roof. Most interesting artefacts inside the church are the baptising stone, baroque pulpit, limestone baroque epitaph to Minister Martin Winter. Reference: Histrodamus
Founded: 1500 | Location: Noarootsi, 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

Kirbla Church

The church of St. Nicholas (Nigula) in Kirbla is one of the smallest in Estonia. It was built by Johannes Orgas, the bishop of Saare-Läänemaa (Ösel-Wiek), and it completed around the year 1500. The Church building is rectangular-shaped, with a very simple design. The interior has a late-Baroque altar from the year 1783.
Founded: ca. 1500 | Location: Lihula, Estonia

St. Martin's Church

The three-naved Türi hall-church was built at the end of 13th century and dedicated to St. Martin. A chapel with the Baranoff family coat of arms is located in the churchyard, where the memorial signs include a Güldenband coat of arms from the 17th century. The posts of yellowish dolomite in the southern gate of the churchyard are eye-catching, as are the chapel’s 19th-century door frames, cornice, and scu ...
Founded: ca. 1300 | Location: Türi, 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

Lääne-Nigula Church

The medieval Lääne-Nigula Church was originally built probably in the end of 13th century. The Baroque-style tower was erected in 1760. The present appearance originates mainly from the restoration made in 1809-1816. The oldest artefacts are the altar statues made in 1510. Reference: Tapio Mäkeläinen 2005. Viro - kartanoiden, kirkkojen ja kukkaketojen maa. Tammi, Helsinki, Finland.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Taebla, 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

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.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Rannu, Estonia

Rõngu Church

The medieval church of Mihkli (St. Michael) was built probably in the end of 14th century. It was mainly destroyed in several wars until the restoration began in the 19th century. The wooden bell tower was built in 1863 and the church was restored to the neo-Gothic appearance in 1901 using medieval walls.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Rõngu, 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

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

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

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

Kolga-Jaani Church

The rural church of Kolga-Jaani was evidently built during the last quarter of the 14th century, under the direction of a master craftsman from Tallinn. It was damaged in the Great Northern War and left in ruins for a long period. The 45-meter high steeple was erected in the reconstruction in 1875. The most significant artefact inside the church is a cruficix made probably around the yer 1380. Between 1890-1917, the man ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kolga-Jaani, Estonia

Halliste Church

The church of St. Anna in Halliste was built probably in the late 15th century. It was almost destroyed by fire in 1959. The reconstruction was made in 1989 by the local community during the Soviet perestroika period. Reference: Tapio Mäkeläinen 2005. Viro - kartanoiden, kirkkojen ja kukkaketojen maa. Tammi, Helsinki, Finland.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Halliste, Estonia

Pilistvere Church

The first record of local priest in Pilistvere date back to the year 1234. The stone church was built in the second half of the 13th century. It was constructed on the example of Suure-Jaani and other Järvamaa churches. Pilistvere church resembles these by the arched choir area, nave and the tower. The church was destroyed several times during 17th to 18th century. It was reconstructed in 1762 which is also stated in ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kõo, Estonia

Tarvastu Church

The oldest parts of the church in Tarvastu date back to the 14th century. The former church consisted of a square-shaped nave and a choir. The church has suffered in numerous wars and in 1771 it received a new appearance under the supervision of Johann Christoph Knaut. The church caught fire after a stroke of lightning in 1892 and its reconstruction was started in 1893, in December of the very same year the consecration o ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Tarvastu, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.