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 one. The monks were killed in a conflict between the Knights of the Sword and vassals supporting the Pope’s legate in 1233 and the church was contaminated. A letter asking permission to consecrate it anew was sent to Rome in 1233 and this is the first record of the church’s existence.
The building was completed in 1240 and it was a one-aisled building with a rectangular chancel. In 1240 it was also named cathedral and consecrated in honour of Virgin Mary. In the beginning of 14th century, reconstructions of the church began with building a new chancel. The enlargement of the one-aisled building to a three-aisled building began in the 1330s. The construction work however lasted almost 100 years and the new, longitudinal, part of the church was completed in the 1430s. The nave’s rectangular pillars had been completed in the second half of the 14th century, though.
The church was greatly damaged in the great fire of 1684 when the entire wooden furnishing was destroyed. Some vaults collapsed and many stone-carved details were greatly damaged- especially in the chancel. In 1686, after the fire, the church was practically restored to what it had been before. Pulpit with figures of the apostles (1686) and the altarpiece (1696) were made by Estonian sculptor and carver Christian Ackermann.
The Dome Church’s exterior dates from the 15th century, the spire dates from the 18th century. Most of the church’s furnishings goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. From 1778 to 1779 a new baroque spire was built in the western part of the nave.
One should also mention a numerous sum of different kinds of tombstones from 13th –18th century, the stone-carved sarcophagi from the 17th century, also the altar and chancel, chandeliers, numerous coats-of arms from the 17th – 20th centuries. Two of the church’s four bells date back to 17th century, two date to the 18th century. The organ was made in 1914.
Among the people buried in the cathedral are the Bohemian nobleman Jindrich Matyas Thurn, one of leaders of Protestant revolt against emperor Ferdinand II and in events that lead to the Thirty Years War, Swedish soldier Pontus De la Gardie and his wife Sophia (John III's daughter), as well as the Scotsman Samuel Greig (formerly Samuil Karlovich Greig of the Russian Navy) and the Russian navigator Adam Johann von Krusenstern.
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.