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 of the pagan Estonians, and the strategic nature of the site makes it likely that it had been since the earliest times. It was destroyed in 1224 by the Christian invaders of Livonia. Immediately after the conquest the Christians began construction of a bishop's fortress, the Castrum Tarbatae, on this strategic spot. (Parts of the old walls of the previous structures have since been revealed by archaeological excavations).
The construction of the Gothic cathedral on the north side of the cathedral hill was probably begun in the second half of the 13th century. It was surrounded by a graveyard and houses for the members of the cathedral chapter. The cathedral was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, who were also the patron saints of the city. It was the seat of the Bishopric of Dorpat, and one of the largest religious buildings of Eastern Europe.
The church was originally planned as a basilica, but the later addition of the three-aisled quire gave it the character of a hall church. The quire (in an early form) and nave were already in use by 1299. The cathedral was completed at the end of the 16th century with the building of the two massive fortress-like towers, originally 66 metres high, on either side of the west front. A wall separated the cathedral grounds and the bishop's fortified residence from the lower town.
In the mid-1520s the Reformation reached Tartu. On 10 January 1525 the cathedral was badly damaged by Protestant iconoclasts, after which it fell increasingly into decay. After the deportation to Russia of the last Roman Catholic Bishop of Dorpat, Hermann Wesel (bishop from 1554 to 1558; died 1563), the cathedral church was abandoned. During the Livonian War (1558–1583) Russian troops devastated the city. When in 1582 the city fell to the Poles, the new Roman Catholic rulers planned to rebuild the cathedral, but the plans were abandoned because of the ensuing Polish-Swedish War (1600–1611). A fire in 1624 compounded the damage.
In 1629 Tartu became Swedish, and the new rulers showed little interest in the derelict building, which during their time fell further into ruin and neglect, except that the burials of the townspeople continued in the graveyard well into the 18th century, while the main body of the church served as a barn. In the 1760s the two towers were reduced from 66 metres to 22 metres, the level of the nave roof, and made into a platform for cannon. The main portal was walled up at this time.
With the re-founding of the German-speaking University of Dorpat by Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1802, the Baltic German architect Johann Wilhelm Krause was commissioned to build among the cathedral ruins the university library, a three-storey building erected between 1804 and 1807. At the end of the 19th century the northern tower was converted for use as a water tower.
In the 1960s the library building was extended and fitted with central heating. When it was replaced in 1981 by a new university library building, the old library became the home of the historical museum of the University of Tartu (Estonian: Tartu Ülikooli ajaloomuuseum). A thorough building conversion took place in 1985, when the 19th century interior was largely restored. Today the museum contains displays of important artefacts of the university's history, scientific instruments and rare books. The rest of the cathedral ruins and the external walls of the quire have been structurally secured and consolidated.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.
Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.
In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.
In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.
After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.
In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.
Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.
In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.
In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.