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St Nicholas Orthodox Church (Nikolai kirik in
Estonian) lies at the top end of Vene street. Vene means Russian,
and it was here in the Sulevimäe and Vene street area of Tallinn
that a marketplace of Medieval Russian merchants sprang up from at
least the twelfth century, at a time when merchants from all over
Europe were flocking to Tallinn. At the centre of the marketplace
an Orthodox church was founded and, in one form or another, it
continues to operate to this day.
In 1442 the city's walls
were being rebuilt, and this necessitated a short move to the
current site where a new church building was erected. The
current twin-towered, copper-domed neo-Classical building dates to 1820-1827,
and was designed by Luigi Rusca, court architect from St
Petersburg. The Orthodox congregation that
maintains the church belongs to the Moscow patriarchate, although
the Orthodox church in Constantinople claims jurisdiction, an
ongoing bone of contention between the two churches.
The church contains a treasured iconostasis whose fame rivals the Zarudny iconostasis which is located in the nearby Church of the
Transfiguration of Our Lord. The iconostasis is a sculptured wall
which was consecrated by Russian Czarina Sophia Alekseyevna in 1678
and which was constructed by the masters of Pskov and the Moscow
armoury after they received a commission from the princes, or 'Czsarevitches',
Ivan and Peter - the future Peter I the Great (1682-1725).
The Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (Issanda
Muutmise Peakirik in Estonian) is located on Suur-Kloostri street in
Tallinn's Old Town (Vanalinn). The church is heavily hidden by
surrounding buildings, narrow streets, and high walls and trees. The
Medieval Cistercian Abbey of St Michael was built here in the
thirteenth century (located next door and now housing the Gustavus
Adolphus School), and the church served the needs of the monks until
The church was given over to an
Orthodox congregation in 1716, and in 1732 the abbey chapel was
rebuilt as the Transfiguration Church. The church has retained its
original form, save the addition of a Baroque spire in 1776 and
exterior renovation work in the early 1800s. It
contains the valuable Zarudny iconostasis, a Baroque sculptured wall
which dates to 1720 and whose fame is only rivalled by
the older iconostasis which resides in the nearby St Nicholas
Orthodox Church on Vene street.
The church grounds also contain the grave
monument of the Orthodox martyr, Bishop St Platon (Amandus Adamson,
who died in 1931), and the building houses the oldest church bell in
Tallinn, one by Matthias Beninck dated to 1575. While this is a
century and a half younger than the old bell in the Church of the
Holy Ghost, that bell was lost in a fire in 2002 and its oldest
remaining bell now dates to 1638.The church holds one service every Sunday,
but refurbishment work to
the dome meant that in 2009 this part was covered in wooden scaffolding.