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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.