The former Church of St Catherine of Alexandria
is on St Catherine's Passage (Katariina käik), between Vene and
Müürivahe streets. It was the grandest and southernmost building in
the Dominican friary complex which was founded by the Order of the
Brothers of the Sword in the second half of the thirteenth century.
The church connected directly to the friary garth, and to the
monastery storeroom which still exists. The church itself was
originally a three-aisled hall church which was influenced by those
in Visby, Gotland, in Sweden.
It was probably completed in the mid-fifteenth
century, at which point it was the largest church in Tallinn. The
fire of 1531 left it in ruins, and it stayed that way for four
hundred years, with only the western wall surviving, along with two
Gothic portals, and bits of the north and south walls (the latter on
the left here). In the mid-nineteenth century the western section of
the ruined church was restored, although only to a height of one
storey. The rest, the tower and the nave which reached a height of
perhaps five stories, had been lost to the ravages of time.
The tombstones along the outer wall of the
church, lining St Catherine's Passage, are from the church itself.
The earliest dates from 1371 while the most recent is from 1503. In
the mid-nineteenth century the western section of the ruined church
was restored and the best-preserved tombstones were displayed on the
wall, although others had a chequered history, being moved around to
be shown off in the houses of the nobility. Those of the Wacke
family from the late fourteenth century are on public display at
Kohtu 6 on Toompea.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St
Paul is on Vene street, although the term 'cathedral' is not always
applied to it, with some referencing it only as a church. It was
built over the ruins of the refectory that was part of the Dominican
Friary which itself was established on the same site in the
thirteenth century. The friary was destroyed by the fire of 1531
which also destroyed the neighbouring St Catherine's Church. The
interior of this pseudo-Gothic replacement, with its neo-Classical
facade, was completed in 1845.
The remains of part of the former friary walls
were rebuilt around the new cathedral. In recent years several
changes have been made inside the cathedral in order to add more
dignity to its outside appearance, including the addition of
stained glass windows. The cathedral has four big lancet windows on
the southern side and five more on the northern side. The windows on
the southern side of the building open on the inner courtyard of the
former Dominican monastery.
The altar painting in the church, which
is entitled 'The Ascension of
Virgin Mary', is a gift from Bavarian King Ludwig I (1825-1848). Two
doors down from the entrance to the cathedral is this building (in
white). As mentioned in the text for St Catherine's Church, it used
to be a storeroom for the Dominican friary, and now it serves as a
restaurant, while the Dominican friary itself used to be located
behind it and to the left of this photo, with St Catherine's to the
right, down the narrow passage.