The St.Caherine's Church of Muhu is considered one of the most remarkable early-Gothic buildings in Estonia. It was first mentioned in Hermann von Wartberge's Chronicle dated 1276. The exterior architecture of the Muhu Church is a strict monumental style and its originality is prominent. The Muhu Church has preserved its original shape. Around 1663, a little wooden steeple was added to the church, but perished together with the roof in 1941. In 1993, during the restoration period an additional roof was constructed on the facade of the church to protect the church bell.
As for the interior furnishings of the Muhu Church one will find an altar table made of dolomite, which has been preserved from the time of its original construction. Also the stone base of the baptismal basin originates from the Middle Ages.
The pulpit is in Renaissance style and was completed on 1627. It is one of the oldest in Saaremaa and was made by Balthasar Raschky. The Classicist altar was created by Nommen Lorentzen in 1827. The altar painting has survived from the original altar and the painting was finished in 1788.
In the Muhu Church and churchyard there are worth noting the trapezium-shaped tombstones with pagan symbols found only on the islands and Western Estonia. They have been traced to the 12th and 13th centuries. The most intricate tombstone is presently located in the frame of the door leading to the wall staircase. It is one of the two preserved in Estonia from the 12th-13-th centuries depicting human figures. Through discovering tombstones, bones and some other rare archaelogical finds, the church is thought to have been erected on a sacred site of the ancient Muhu inhabitants.
Reference: Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).