Tallinn, Estonia

Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia

In English this church is St. Nicholas’, but it is usually referred to by its Estonian name to avoid confusion with another St. Nicholas’ Church in Tallinn. Also the Niguliste Church is no longer a functioning church, but rather a museum and concert hall.

The church was founded by Westphalian merchants from Gotland around 1230 and was completed by around 1275. At the time it was built outside the City Walls and thus it once had heavy bars on its entrances and loopholes and hiding places in its walls. When the City Walls were completed in the 14th Century they enclosed the Niguliste Church and it ceased to have any fortification needs. Of the original church little now remains standing having been mostly rebuilt around 1405-1420.

In 1515 the tower was added and the spire constructed, but the original spire has subsequently been replaced with the more gothic one now present.

When the Reformation swept through Tallinn in 1523 the Niguliste Church was the only one that did not succumb to destruction and vandalism. The congregation poured molten lead into the locks of the church and so the mob could not get in and it survived without much damage.

Sadly the same can not be said in relation to the Soviet bombing of Tallinn in World War II. On March 9 the church was hit directly and fire destroyed most of the structure, only St. Anthony’s Chapel survived inside and only the stonework of the exterior was not raised to the ground. The tower continued to smoke for a month after the bombing stopped. A lot of the interior art was rescued by bystanders and has now been placed back into the church.

Renovation did not start until 1953 and was not completed until 1981. Then, just a year later the church tower caught fire and was gutted, the spire destroyed and the nave damaged.

The church was restored but when it reopened in 1984 it did so as a museum and concert hall, which function it maintains to this day.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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