St Mary's Cathedral

Tallinn, Estonia

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.

Reference: Wikipedia

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Details

Founded: 1229
Category: Religious sites in Estonia
Historical period: Danish and Livonian Order (Estonia)

More Information

www.eelk.ee
en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Boris Thoenissen (2 years ago)
Very nice and simple Church
Marcel S Henselin (2 years ago)
Very impressive and ancient - good guides and kind people. Good idea to visit the dome and enjoy the view from up here
Miron Shois (2 years ago)
One of the oldest churches in Estonia.
George On tour (2 years ago)
The medieval church that stands at the centre of Toompea hill is one of the country's most fascinating historic attractions. Established sometime before 1233 and repeatedly rebuilt since, the church displays a mix of architectural styles. Its vaulted main body dates to the 14th century, while its Baroque tower was an addition from the late 1770s. Historically this was the church of Estonia's elite German nobles, a fact that becomes clear once you step through the doors. The interior is filled with elaborate funereal coats of arms from the 17th to the 20th centuries as well as burial stones from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Among the notables buried here are Pontus de la Gardie, who commanded Swedish forces during the Great Northern War, Adam Johann von Krusenstern, the Baltic-German admiral who led Russia's first expedition around the world, and Scottish-born Admiral Samuel Greig of Fife, rumoured to be Catherine the Great's lover.
dimikb (2 years ago)
Good place to listen for the organ on the weekend. And you can go to top of the tower to see the best view of the entire old town
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