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Paluküla Church is on the island of Hiiumaa,
which lies off the western coast
of Estonia, with the smaller island of Vormsi in between the two.
Paluküla is a village on the northern part of the island, in the
parish of Pühalepa, about two
kilometres inland from the north-east coast.
Although many of Hiiumaa's churches are very
poorly documented, it is known that Paluküla Church was build in 1820 by the sons of
Otto Reinhold Ludvig Unger-Sternberg. He was a descendant of the ancient
German aristocracy which had Christianised Estonia in the twelfth
Otto Reinhold Ludvig Unger-Sternberg was also the
most famous landlord on the island of Hiiumaa. People called him
'The count of Ungru'. Initially the church was planned as the chapel
and internment tomb for his family but this plan failed because
groundwater levels turned out to be too high for tombs to be
Until 1939, the church building was functioning
as the assistant church, or chapel-at-ease, for the nearby large town of Kärdla, about
five kilometres to the north-west. There used to be a hundred seats
for the parishioners who were directed here to worship.
Unfortunately, thanks to its secondary status,
there were no facilities built for the church, no quarters for the
pastor and not even a graveyard nearby, only this church at the side
of the road, inside the heath forest.
In the summer of 1939, when newly occupying
Soviet troops started to construct army bases on the island of
Hiiumaa, they also occupied Paluküla Church. The Soviet army used
the church as a warehouse and its tower as an observation point.
After the Second World War, Paluküla Church was
not re-established as a sanctuary. Also its function as a warehouse
diminished over time. In the spring of 1989 the building suffered a
large fire, in the course of which the tower was destroyed.
The church’s main roof was finally restored in
1994, using red tiles. Two years later, in 1996, the tower roof was
During a century and-a-half of its total
existence of nearly two centuries, the impressive tower of
Paluküla's church was also an official landmark for use by
navigators in the Baltic Sea. In around 2001 the fixed red night
light was discontinued, but the spire still provides a daytime
Now, although the church is still not in use, it
faces a less uncertain future as reconstruction work slowly restores
this wonderful example of German-Estonian church architecture to its
All photos and text on this page contributed by Kadri