Religious sites in 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

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an orthodox cathedral in Tallinn. It is built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Tallinn's largest and grandest orthodox cupola cathedral. It is dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky who in 1242 won the Battle of the Ice on Lake Pe ...
Founded: 1894-1900 | Location: Tallinn, 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 wooden ...
Founded: 1229 | Location: Tallinn, 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

Swedish St. Michael's Church

This small church on Rüütli street has been the spiritual home for generations of Estonian Swedes, an ethnic group that's been present in Tallinn since the Middle Ages. The location had originally been an almshouse for the city's poor, but in 1733 the tsarist government gave it to the Swedish congregation, which been left without its own church since the Great Northern War. During Soviet times the bui ...
Founded: 1733 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Dominican Monastery

The Dominican monastery was founded in 1246 and it is the oldest one in the medieval old town. The center of monastery was St. Catherine's Church, which was completed in the late 1300s and was the largest church building in the lower town. The Monastery was expanded several times, most recently in the 16th century. St. Catherine's convent closed down in 1525, when the monks were expelled from Tallinn during the R ...
Founded: 1246 | 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. Nicholas Orthodox Church

The church, with its twin bell towers and copper dome, was designed by St. Petersburg court architect Luigi Rusca and built in 1820-27. The main iconostasis is from the 19th century and the older ones in aisles from the turn of 17th and 18th centuries. Today the church is used by the Russian Orthodox Parish of Tallinn.
Founded: 1820-1827 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Uspensky Orthodox Church

Uspensky Church, which forms a uniform complex with a long priest house on the northern side, was built in 1783 and belongs to the early classical period. Uspensky Church is located in the same place as the St. Mary- Magdalena's Church of a Dominican monastery founded before 1300. The details of the building are typical of Russian early classicism. The interior of the church is relatively modest in terms of architect ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Tartu, 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 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

Kaarli Church

The Kaarli Church (or Charles XI’s Church) was built between 1862-1882 to replace the original Kaarli Church, itself founded in 1670 on the order of Sweden's King Charles XI. Like many wooden structures located outside the city wall, the first Kaarli Church burned down during the Great Northern War in the early 1700s. Architect Otto Pius Hippius from St. Petersburg built the present limestone church using a spe ...
Founded: 1862-1882 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. Elizabeth's Lutheran Church

The Lutheran church named after Empress Elizabethis one of the most significant Baroque-style churches in Estonia. It was built betweenn 1744-1747 under the guidance of J. H. Güterbock from Riga. The neo-gothic pulpit and altar were made in 1850; the altarpiece (“Resurrection”) dating from 1854 was completed in Van der Kann’s workshop in Rotterdam. In 1893, the wooden building of the oldest theatre of the town (K ...
Founded: 1744-1747 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

Church Of The Congregation Of Maria Magdalena

The Orthodox Maria Magdalena Church was built in 1847-1852 by the unknown architect. Russian Tsar Alexander II attended the opening of the church in 1852. The church was restored to its present state only a few years ago. The church is open on Sundays from 9 am to noon.
Founded: 1852 | Location: Haapsalu, Estonia

St. Catherine's Church

St. Catherine’s Church was built for the Pärnu garrison in 1768 to replace the wooden church erected in 1752. It was named after Empress Catherine II, who travelled through Pärnu in 1764. As designed by architect P. Jegorov, St. Catherine’s Church is the one of the richest and most stylish examples of a baroque style in Estonia.
Founded: 1768 | Location: Pärnu, Estonia

St. Simeon's and St. Anne's Church

The wooden Orthodox church was built in 1752-1755 on the initiative of Russian sailors. St. Simeon's is the second Orthodox church to have sprung up as part of the suburban building boom that followed the Great Northern War. The building was seriously damaged during the Soviet period, when it was turned into a sports hall. During this time it also lost its bell tower and onion dome. Fortunately the church was restore ...
Founded: 1752-1755 | Location: Tallinn, Estonia

St. John's Church

The church of St. John (Jaani) was originally part of the Fransiscan abbey built in 1466-1472. The abbey was destroyed in 1560 and the church was restored in the beginning of the 17th century. Still functioning after the Second World War, it was closed in 1950 and turned into a warehouse. It was consecrated again in 1992 and is now often used as a concert venue.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Viljandi, 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

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

St. Lawrence's Church

One-naved classicistic Kuressaare St. Lawrence’s Church was built in 1630’s to the place of medieval church destroyed by fire. The pulpit and altar wall of the church are hewed from dolomite, all along the building is surrounded by columnar balcony. In the church you can see the first Sauer instrument of Estonia, the only organ of Kuressaare city. The most significant artefact in the church is the medieval babtismal s ...
Founded: 1630's | Location: Kuressaare, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.