St. Olaf's Church

Tallinn, Estonia

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.

A legend tells that the builder of the church, named Olaf, upon its completion, fell to his death from atop the tower. It is said that when his body hit the ground, a snake and a toad crawled out of his mouth. There is a wall-carving depicting this event in the adjoining Chapel of Our Lady.

Around 1500, the building reached a height of 159 meters. The motivation for building such an immensely tall steeple must have been to use it as a maritime signpost, which made the trading city of Tallinn visible from far out at sea. Between 1549 and 1625, when the spire burnt down after a lightning strike, it was the tallest building in the world. The steeple of St. Olav has been hit by lightning at least eight times, and the whole church has burned down three times throughout its known existence. Following several rebuildings, its overall height is now 123.7 meters.

From 1944 until 1991, the Soviet KGB used Oleviste's spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. It currently continues as an active Baptist church. The tower's viewing platform offers panoramic views over the old town and is open to the public from April through November.

Reference: Wikipedia

Comments

Your name



Address

Lai 50-52, Tallinn, Estonia
See all sites in Tallinn

Details

Founded: 1267
Category: Religious sites in Estonia
Historical period: Danish and Livonian Order (Estonia)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rafael Ricardo (2 years ago)
Amazing view from the city. If you are looking for a lookout to take nice pictures from the old city center this is one of the right spots. Be ready for a lot of escalators, it's like 20 minutes upstairs, some sections are really narrow therefore not recommended if you struggle with narrow places. There is an entry fee too.
Tiiu-Triinu Tamm (3 years ago)
Great place with the best view. Weird that it still a active church.
Max Wenneker (3 years ago)
300 step tower open from April to October. Absolutely worth going up. Not for the out of shape! Amazing views.
Balázs Kádár (3 years ago)
Very old, nice church with a very tall tower, you pay a little money you go to the top end see all city bird wiew. Maybe the tallest tower in the city center, easy way, easy found.
George On tour (3 years ago)
St Olaf's Church in Tallinn, the city's biggest medieval structure, took its name from the sainted Norwegian king Olav II Haraldsson. The church was first mentioned in 1267. It became one of the main churches in the Lower Town and formed its own congregation, which at first mostly comprised Scandinavian merchants and craftsmen and few Estonians.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Architecture

The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.

In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.