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

Glimmingehus

Glimmingehus is the best preserved medieval stronghold in Scandinavia. It was built 1499-1506, during an era when Scania formed a vital part of Denmark, and contains many defensive arrangements of the era, such as parapets, false doors and dead-end corridors, 'murder-holes' for pouring boiling pitch over the attackers, moats, drawbridges and various other forms of death traps to surprise trespassers and protect the nobles against peasant uprisings. The lower part of the castle's stone walls are 2.4 meters (94 inches) thick and the upper part 1.8 meters (71 inches).

Construction was started in 1499 by the Danish knight Jens Holgersen Ulfstand and stone-cutter-mason and architect Adam van Düren, a North German master who also worked on Lund Cathedral. Construction was completed in 1506.

Ulfstand was a councillor, nobleman and admiral serving under John I of Denmark and many objects have been uncovered during archeological excavations that demonstrate the extravagant lifestyle of the knight's family at Glimmingehus up until Ulfstand's death in 1523. Some of the most expensive objects for sale in Europe during this period, such as Venetian glass, painted glass from the Rhine district and Spanish ceramics have been found here. Evidence of the family's wealth can also be seen inside the stone fortress, where everyday comforts for the knight's family included hot air channels in the walls and bench seats in the window recesses. Although considered comfortable for its period, it has also been argued that Glimmingehus was an expression of "Knighthood nostalgia" and not considered opulent or progressive enough even to the knight's contemporaries and especially not to later generations of the Scanian nobility. Glimmingehus is thought to have served as a residential castle for only a few generations before being transformed into a storage facility for grain.

An order from Charles XI to the administrators of the Swedish dominion of Scania in 1676 to demolish the castle, in order to ensure that it would not fall into the hands of the Danish king during the Scanian War, could not be executed. A first attempt, in which 20 Scanian farmers were ordered to assist, proved unsuccessful. An additional force of 130 men were sent to Glimmingehus to execute the order in a second attempt. However, before they could carry out the order, a Danish-Dutch naval division arrived in Ystad, and the Swedes had to abandon the demolition attempts. Throughout the 18th century the castle was used as deposit for agricultural produce and in 1924 it was donated to the Swedish state. Today it is administered by the Swedish National Heritage Board.

On site there is a museum, medieval kitchen, shop and restaurant and coffee house. During summer time there are several guided tours daily. In local folklore, the castle is described as haunted by multiple ghosts and the tradition of storytelling inspired by the castle is continued in the summer events at the castle called "Strange stories and terrifying tales".