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Gallery: Churches of Tallinn
by Peter Kessler & Alesja Pozlevitš, 3
May 2009. Updated 26 July 2009
Part 1: Dome Church / St Mary's Episcopal Dome
The Dome Church (Toomkirik in Estonian) is
more formally known as St Mary's Episcopal Dome Church (Tallinna Puha
Neitsi Maarja Piiskoplik Toomkirik). It is the mother church of the
country's official Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church body. The
invading Danes probably built the original, temporary wooden church
on the spot on Toompea Hill shortly after their conquest of North
Estonia in 1219. There were already some Christianised elements in
the country before that date.
The Danes were expelled in 1227 when the Order
of the Brothers of the Sword expanded out of central Estonia. The
Dominican Order monks started building a stone church on Toompea
in 1229. The first written mention of the cathedral itself dates
from 1233, with a battle between the Order and pro-Papal vassals
who wanted to create an ecclesiastical state. The bodies of
defeated pro-Papal knights were piled at the alter after the battle
spread inside the church.
King Valdemar reacquired North Estonia for
Denmark in 1238. He appointed the bishopric of Tallinn to the Dome
Church in 1240, subordinated to the archdiocese of Lund in Sweden.
The cathedral chapter was established, while the cathedral itself
was consecrated in the name of St Mary the Virgin. By 1319 at the
latest a school had also been established at the church, although
the building looked very different from its modern appearance which
is mostly eighteenth century.
Reconstruction of the modest, single-nave church
began at the start of the 1300s, turning it into a three-nave building
over the course of a century of work. Lutheran reform entered the
churches of the Old Town, below the hill, by 1524, but Catholic
services continued to be held in the Dome Church until 1561, when
Sweden gained control of Tallinn. A library was added in 1641 while
a donation from Queen Christina of Sweden in 1651 allowed a copper
roof to be added.
A great fire on Toompea in 1433 destroyed a great
deal. Rebuilding included chapels on the south side, St George's
Chapel on the north side, and a chapel at the north-east corner of
the main rectangle which no longer exists. The cathedral remained
without the high tower which was so typical of regional churches,
so a small tower was added in the corner of the chancel and the
south aisle. The lower part survives to this day. An even greater
fire struck on 6 June 1684.
This time only the church walls survived - even
the library was lost. King Charles XI held a nationwide collection
in Sweden to help restore the cathedral within just two years. The
chapel began to be used as a burial place for important personages,
but the Great Northern War delayed the tower's building, which was
done in 1778-1779 under Russian control. Baroque remodelling was
carried out on the interior of the cathedral, and it is mostly this
version which survives today.