The St Charles XI Church (Kaarli kirik in Estonian)
lies just outside the Old Town area, on a site called Tõnismägi (the
Hill of Tõnis) at the southern base of Toompea. A chapel dedicated
to St Anthony and a graveyard were located on the site of the church
by the fourteenth century, presumably used by the local non-German
community. The first full church on the site was consecrated on the
4th Advent of 1670, after Charles XI, king of Sweden (1660-1696),
had ordered the building of a wooden church in a Greek cross style.
Charles offered the church for use by Estonians
and Finns, but the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia in
1700-1721 wrought great destruction across Estonia. With Russian
troops outside Tallinn's city walls in August 1710, many of the
buildings surrounding the city's fortification wall were burnt down,
including the church. Its destruction weakened local parish life
within a couple of decades, with parishioners either going to the
Church of the Holy Ghost in the centre of the Old Town or further
afield to Jõelähtme (around twenty kilometres east of the city) or
Keila (about the same distance to the south-west).
Potential congregations had increased by the
1850s, when collections were taken with a view to building a new
church on the site. The cornerstone was laid on 18 October 1862 and
the present church was completed in 1882, according to a design by
Otto Pius Hippius from St Petersburg, who had strong Estonian
connections. The organ was fitted in 1884. The first service was
held before that, on 20 December 1870, exactly two hundred years
after the consecration of the first church on the site. Finishing
touches were added over the next few years.
St John's Church (Jaani kirik) sits in
Freedom Square (Vabaduse väljak), on the border between the Old Town
and Kesklinn. The three-aisled church was built for the excess
congregation from the Church of the Holy Ghost, which was always
too small to be the main parish church for around 14,000 Estonians
in Vanalinn. A collection started in 1851, and the magistrates in
Tallinn, who had patronage rights over the church, gave permission
for the new building to be erected outside the town walls, on a plot
that had formerly belonged to the Domguild.
The neo-Gothic building was designed by Christoph
August Gabler (1820-1884), Tallinn-born provincial architect for
Estonia from 1859 until his death. Construction took five years,
between 1862-1867, but the toughest stage was the first, when the
foundations were laid in soft ground which had formerly been a moat.
To reinforce the foundations, dozens of thick oak trunks were rammed
into the ground. The cornerstone was laid on 8 September 1862 and
the church was named after St John the Evangelist.
The surrounding land was built up from the end of
the nineteenth century, culminating in the square which existed
until the extensive modifications of 2007-2010. Unfortunately the
new art deco and functional buildings sharply contrasted with the
neo-Gothic church, so in 1936 the government decided the church
would have to be pulled down. The plan was thwarted by the war and
by occupation. Although demolition was again mooted in the 1950s,
the church survives to this day.