Medieval churches in Estonia

Lüganuse Church

The Lüganuse Lutheran church was built in the beginning of 14th century. It was enlarged as a two-nave church in the 15th century. The round tower is unique in Estonian medieval architecture. The church was badly damaged during the Second World War and restoration began in 1951.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lüganuse, Estonia

Viru-Nigula Church

The construction of Lutheran Church of Viru-Nigula was started originally in the late 13th century and continued until 15th century. The Baroque-style pillars were added in the 17th century. The church was badly damaged by fire in 1941 and the restoration was started right after World War II. Reference: Tapio Mäkeläinen 2005. Viro - kartanoiden, kirkkojen ja kukkaketojen maa. Tammi, Helsinki, Finland.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Viru-Nigula, 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

Ambla Church

The medieval stone church of Ambla is the oldest in Central Estonia. Construction of the church was started in the mid-13th century. The church has been consecrated in the name of Virgin Mary, the main patron saint of Teutonic Order. In Latin the church is called Ampla Maria (Mary the Majestic), which also has given the name for the village. The Renaissance-style interior was mainly destroyed in Livonian Wars, but ther ...
Founded: ca. 1250 | Location: Ambla Parish, Estonia

Järva-Madise Church

The church of Järva-Madise was originally built as a fortress-church in the end of 13th century. The present appearance is mostly from the 14th century. The wall paintings, altar and pulpit of Järva-Madise church originate from the Middle Ages, the tradition to burry inside the church is reminded by grave plate hewed in the floor. You can visit Järva-Madise church in summer months from Friday to Sunday. R ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Albu, Estonia

Järva-Jaani Church

The Church of St. John in Järva-Jaani was built around 1300 as a single-nave fortress church. The Neo-gothic tower was erected in 1881. There are some interesting historical artefacts in the church like Baroque-style pulpit made by Fr. Hoppenstätt in 1648.
Founded: 1300 | Location: Järva-Jaani Parish, Estonia

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

Urvaste Church

The first record Urvaste Church date back to 1413 and it is considered to be one of the oldest churches in Võrumaa. This church, dedicated to Saint Urban, was built in the form of a basilica in the Gothic style, the only such rural church in Estonia. It was mainly destroyed in Livonian War (1558), but reconstructed in 1620. The Altar painting dates from 1885 and the painter is C. Walther. The Organ is a masterpiec ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Võrumaa, 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

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

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

St. Lawrence Church

The Church of St. Lawrence in Kuusalu is considered to be one of the oldest stone churches in Northern Europe. It may have been built originally by the Gotlandish Cistercian monks of the priory of a Roma monastery locating in Kolga. The church was built probably at the end of the 13th century. The Baroque-style bell tower was erected in 1760. The Neo-Gothic shape of the church originates from the large renovation made in ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kuusalu, Estonia

Rakvere Church of the Holy Trinity

The first church of Rakvere was built in 1430’s and sanctified to St. Michael. The dilapidated church was reconstructed between 1684-1891. The Rakvere church was damaged in the Great Northern War and restored in 1752 and again in 1850’s. The unusually high and slender spire was added during the last renovation. The beautiful pulpit was made by C. Ackermann in 1690 and the altar by Johann Rabe in 1730. Referen ...
Founded: 1430's | Location: Rakvere, Estonia

Harju-Risti Church

The Church of the Holy Cross is a medieval Gothic style building with a peculiar shaped tower. Construction started in the 13th century and was completed in the first half of the 15th century. The church was originally built with a round tower, however during the first half of 17th century half of the top of the tower collapsed. There are two tombs from the 15th century and a pulpit from the 17th century inside the churc ...
Founded: ca. 1330 | Location: Padise, Estonia

St. Mary's Church

Märjamaa Church boasting lofty walls was built in the 14th century as the mightiest fortress-church in western Estonia. Its main characteristics are asceticism, simplicity, utility and quality. Its exceptionally high and thick walls used to be capped with balustrades. Märjamaa Church is the only fully preserved medieval church in Rapla County. The churchyard contains a Maltese stone cross dating from 1720 and b ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Märjamaa, 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

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

Järva-Peetri Church

The church of Peetri (St. Peter) is one of the biggest medieval churches in Järvamaa. It was built by the Livonian order in the 14th century. The church has the highest bell tower (built in 1868) of the Estonian churches. The interior is Neo-Gothic, the altar painting is painted by C. Greger. The wheel cross is from the 18th century. There are also two crucifixes from the 17th century and graves from 16th and 17th c ...
Founded: ca. 1300 | Location: Kareda Parish, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

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.