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Modern Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Hiiumaa

by Kadri Pentikäinen, 24 May 2009. Updated 27 July 2011

 

 

Part 3: Churches of Kärdla & Malavaste

EELC St John's Church, Kärdla, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Kärdla is one of the larger towns on Hiiumaa and serves as the island's capital. Swedes, who occupied most of the western islands, were inhabiting the town as early as 1564, at which time it was known as Kärrdal. The town is situated on the coast about eleven kilometres north-west of Kuri, and about three from Paluküla. Its church is the St John the Baptist's Lutheran Church in Kärdla (the Eesti Evangeelne Luterlik Kirik, or EELK, in Estonian).

EELC St John's Church, Kärdla, Hiiumaa, Estonia

This church was build over the course of a three year period, between 1860-1863, and is sited on the northern corner of Kärdla's municipal park. Financial support for the construction work came as a welcome thank you from the wife of a Danish captain, after both her and her husband had been saved from a shipwreck near the coast. The attractive, whitewashed stone church is dedicated in the name of St John the Baptist.

EELC St John's Church, Kärdla, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Before this church, which is located in the parish of Pühalepa which itself includes the capital of Hiiumaa, was consecrated, services has been held on the left bank of the River Nuutri, in an old wooden chapel. A constantly increasing population was one of the reasons for building a more capacious sanctuary, although it is a shame that the wooden chapel had to be dismantled to achieve it as these are now rare in Estonia.

EELC St John's Church, Kärdla, Hiiumaa, Estonia

The need for a bigger church existed before 1860 but there was no good source of financial support. Investing in the local harbour was more important. But then unexpected help arrived: at the end of the 1850s a Danish ship went down in Kärdla's bay, and the crew were saved by the locals. The captain's wife, Amanda Abrahamson, was among those saved and as a sign of her immense gratitude, she donated a large sum towards the construction of Kärdla's new church.

EELC St John's Church, Kärdla, Hiiumaa, Estonia

The church is made from local limestone, as are many buildings in Estonia, and is a classic 'spoke' design. The walls were covered inside and outside with plaster and then whitewashed in a very distinctive Scandinavian style which is rarely repeated elsewhere (although St Mary & All Saints Lambourne in Epping Forest, England, is a rare example). High, Gothic-style arched windows illustrate the simple unadorned walls. Inside the church there are seats for 600 people.

EELC St John's Church, Kärdla, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Originally there was a small and low gable tower on top of the west part of the roof. In 1929, to celebrate the church becoming an independent congregation, it was replaced with a large bell tower. Inside, the altar piece (a picture or relief which represents a religious subject and which is suspended in a frame behind the altar), called 'Christ on the Cross', was painted in 1889 by an unknown artist. The organ was purchased in 1904 from the well known company of E F Falker.

Malvaste Chapel, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Malvaste Orthodox Chapel sits in a very small village of the same name on the northern coast of Hiiumaa. Malvaste village is located in the parish of Kõrgessaare, about twelve kilometres west of the town of Kärdla, in an area known as the Tahkuna peninsula. Before 1781 the main inhabitants of the village were Swedes, in common with most of the western islands, and therefore the village name comes from a Swedish word, 'malmas', or 'fell' in English.

Malvaste Chapel, Hiiumaa, Estonia

The architecturally unique chapel at Malvaste is made out of wood, with only the foundations being constructed from large quarry stones. The foundations may date to 1906, but the wooden structure was erected in 1925, in an existing cemetery which continues to be used today. Originally there used to be another door on the southern side of the chapel but after rebuilding work was carried out the door was not restored. The bell tower was built later.

Malvaste Chapel, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Around Malvaste chapel there is a small graveyard which covers a space of about 0.46 hectares (5,600 square yards). There are no regular services on Sundays in the chapel because it is mostly used for funeral ceremonies. However, for the Kõrgessaare congregation (which numbered twenty-eight in 2011) this is still the only place to meet and worship, even if the services have been somewhat irregular, a situation which may be changing from 2011 onwards.

Malvaste Chapel, Hiiumaa, Estonia

Today Malvaste Orthodox chapel is fully restored and attracts passers-by with its decidedly unusual appearance. There are not so many Orthodox worshippers on the island these days, most of them having been created by Lutherans converting in the late nineteenth century, in the Russian empire days. Today, most of the Orthodox church is affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church. The chapel was finally consecrated during a five hour ceremony on 26 July 2011.

All photos and text on this page contributed by Kadri Pentikäinen.

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