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Gallery: Churches of Hiiumaa
by Kadri Pentikäinen, 24 May 2009. Updated
27 July 2011
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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