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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.