History Files


Modern Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Pärnu County

by Peter Kessler, 10 April 2011



Part 1: Churches of Pärnu

St Elizabeth's Church

St Elizabeth's Church (Eliisabeti kirik in Estonian) is located at Nikolai 22, in the southern central section of the city of Pärnu, Estonia's summer capital. In 1741 Russian Empress Elizabeth Petrovna gave the command to utilise 8,000 rubles from the public purse for the construction of a new Lutheran church in Pärnu. The cornerstone was laid, with all due midsummer ceremony, on 25 June 1744 and work started under the guidance of Riga's master builder, J H Güterbock.

St Elizabeth's Church's tower

The church is one of the most outstanding examples of Baroque ecclesiastical architecture in Estonia. The spire was constructed by J H Wülbern, the 'tower master' of Riga's St Peter's Church. St Elizabeth's was consecrated in 1750. As Empress Elizabeth had funded the construction works, the church was given her name. The neo-Gothic pulpit and altar were made in 1850; the altarpiece, 'Resurrection', dates from 1854, built in Van der Kann’s workshop in Rotterdam.

St Elizabeth's Church from the south

In between spring and autumn 1893, the wooden building which housed the oldest theatre in the town, Küün ('the barn' in English), was demolished to make way for the church's southern wing, designed and built in brick by R Häusermann, a construction master from Riga. The church was reconsecrated on 19 October 1893. The organ, built in 1929 by H Kolbe of Riga, is among the best in Estonia. In 1995 a north extension with offices was completed by architect R Luhse.

St Catherine's Orthodox Church

St Catherine's Orthodox Church (Püha Suurmärter Jekateriina Kogudus, or Katariina kirik) is at Vee 8, on the north-east corner with Uus tänav (street). A wooden apostolic orthodox church was erected on the site in 1752, probably very similar to the Church of St Simeon and the Prophetess Hanna in Tallinn, which was completed in 1755. It quickly became very shabby before, in 1764, Russian Empress Catherine II passed through the city and saw the state of it.

St Catherine's Orthodox Church's main tower

The empress commanded that a new church should be built (which has become one of Pärnu's older churches). Construction took place in 1764-1768, designed by Pjotr Jegorov (Pyotr Yegorov), an architect of Chuvash descent, who now found himself undertaking his first independent project. The church was inaugurated in 1768 and served the city's garrison of Russian troops. It has a Greek cross ground plan with an elegant belfry and several other slender towers.

St Catherine's Orthodox Church from the south

The church's facade has a rich repertory of elements of decor including cornices, frontals, and more. Still under the authority of Moscow's patriarch today, the interior is typically light and ornate, gold being the colour that resembles the Russian Orthodox depiction of the Heavenly Kingdom. It is the richest and most stylish example of a Baroque church in Estonia and it has influenced the architecture of apostolic orthodox churches throughout the Baltic States.

In Depth
In Depth


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