St. Nicholas Church

Tallinn, Estonia

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 fortifications around Tallinn were finished in the 14th century (the town wall enclosed the church and the settlement in 1310), the St. Nicholas' Church lost its defensive function and became a typical medieval parish church. There are only a few parts of the original church that have been preserved through the present.

In 1405–1420 St. Nicholas' church obtained its current appearance, when the central aisle was built higher than side aisles and the church was redesigned as a full basilica. In 1515 the tower was built higher and covered with late-Gothic spire. In late 17th century the tower was strengthened and secured. The spire was replaced with a Baroque spire with airy galleries, which was raised higher stage by stage through several centuries. The tower is now 105 metres high.

Saint Nicholas was the only church in Tallinn which remained untouched by iconoclasm brought by the Protestant Reformation in 1523 (or 1524). The head of the congregation poured molten lead into the locks of the church, and the raging hordes could not get in.

The church was partially destroyed in Soviet Bombing of Tallinn in World War II. After restoration it is in use as an art museum and concert hall. Most famous of the artworks is a painting Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) by the Lübeck master Bernt Notke, which depicts the transience of life, the skeletal figures of Death taking along the mighty as well as the feeble ones. Only the initial fragment of the original 30 metres (98.4 ft) wide painting (accomplished at the end of the 15th century) can be seen in the St Nicholas' Church.

Reference: Wikipedia

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Address

Rüütli 15, Tallinn, Estonia
See all sites in Tallinn

Details

Founded: 1230-1270
Category: Religious sites in Estonia
Historical period: Danish and Livonian Order (Estonia)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

shameema binte rahman (5 months ago)
The building is from 13th century. Renovation works went on after the second world War bombing. There are many paintings from middle age and as it is an Lutheran church, so features of that type are huge. It's a good choice if you have some interest about middle age art and history.
Kayli Põder (5 months ago)
Amazing church, loved the expos and paintings. Learned a lot about history, especially about Tallinn and WW2. The Dance Macabre was awesome, really well exposed. The staff there was also nice and really welcoming, enjoyed my visit and time there
Laura Arland (5 months ago)
Very nice place for a Christmas events and concerts
Netanel Pollak (6 months ago)
Beautiful church. Great concerts
George On tour (8 months ago)
Exquisite altarpieces, medieval burial slabs and other works of religious art can be seen in this 1230-era church-turned-museum.Saints, dancing skeletons and silver – not to mention the occasional organ concert – are the main attractions here. Founded by German merchant/settlers from the island of Gotland, the sturdy church was designed to double as a fortress in the days before the town wall was built. The building survived the Reformation looting of 1523, but wasn't so lucky in the 20th century when it was destroyed by World War II bombs. Since its restoration in the 1980s, St. Nicholas' has functioned as a museum specialising in works of religious art, most famously Bernt Notke's beautiful but spooky painting Danse Macabre (Dance with Death). Intricate altarpieces, baroque chandeliers and centuries-old burial slabs are also on display, while the Silver Chamber is home to stunning works by members of town's craft guilds.
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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.

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