History Files


Modern Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Tallinn

by Peter Kessler, 19 May 2009. Updated 15 November 2009



Part 11: Churches of Kesklinn

Church of St John's Almshouses, Tartu maantee, Tallinn

St John's Almshouses Church, or Jaani Seegi kirik, is a wooden church located outside the ancient city walls, at the start of Tartu mantee, the main arterial route to Estonia's second city. Literally translated, 'seegi' is 'seek' in English, but 'almshouse' is more appropriate in this instance. It is an ancient word for madhouse, one of which was located nearby and which used to treat not only the victims of mental disease, but plague sufferers and lepers too.

Jaani seegi kirik, Tartu maanteel, Tallinnas, Eestis

The Baroque church was built to serve the spiritual needs of the inmates, as they were not allowed to leave the precincts to attend other churches. The church was first constructed in the fourteenth century, or possibly even earlier, but the main body of the current building dates to 1648 and 1724, after the first building was largely destroyed during the Livonian Wars (1558-1583 in which Russia attempted the conquest of Old Livonia but lost out to Sweden and Poland).

Church of St John Seek, Tallinn

In the twentieth century Tallinn's financial and corporate centre sprang up around the church, virtually the only place in Tallinn which has office blocks of this height, and the building is also partially masked by the overhead power cables of two local tram routes (see the first photo). The old church yard lies on the other side of the building (shown here), while the church has been in use by the Estonian Congregation of St Gregory of the Armenian Apostolic Church since 1993.

Church of Our Lady of Kazan, Tallinn

The Church of Our Lady of Kazan is squeezed against Liivalaia street in the central Kesklinn area of Tallinn. Our Lady of Kazan is a holy icon of the highest stature within the Russian Orthodox Church, representing the Virgin Mary as the protector and patron of the city of Kazan. As a result of the Great Northern War (1700-1721) which saw Russia finally achieve its seven hundred year-old dream of conquering the Baltic States, Orthodox churches were suddenly in great need.

Church of Our Lady of Kazan, Tallinn

Under Russian imperial control, the suburbs of Tallinn grew very quickly. The community incorporated a large number of Russian immigrants who were flooding into the country, and this created the need for new Orthodox churches in the suburbs of this predominantly Lutheran country. The first to be completed was the Church of Our Lady of Kazan. This church is the oldest preserved wooden church in Tallinn, and it has been carefully renovated to its original appearance.

Church of Our Lady of Kazan, Tallinn

Although it is not documented, it seems almost certain that part of the church's land was appropriated by the authorities when the busy two-lane main road was built alongside it. The church almost touches its wooden fencing at the closest point to the road. Today, the Orthodox congregation here belongs to the Moscow patriarchate, with services conducted three times on Saturdays and Sundays.

Two photos on this page contributed by Oliver Õunmaa, which first appeared in 'Pealinn' newspaper in Estonia on 21 April 2008. Additional text by Teele Keskküla and Aljona Kozlova.

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