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Modern Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Tallinn

by Peter Kessler, 26 July 2009

Part 6: Churches of Vanalinn

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

The former Church of St Catherine of Alexandria is on St Catherine's Passage (Katariina käik), between Vene and Müürivahe streets. It was the grandest and southernmost building in the Dominican friary complex, founded by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword between 1250-1300. The church connected directly to the friary garth, and to the still extant monastery storeroom. The church was originally three-aisled, influenced by those in Visby, Gotland, in Sweden.

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

Probably completed in the mid-1400s, it was the largest church in Tallinn. Fire in 1531 left it in ruins for four hundred years with only the western wall surviving, along with two Gothic portals and bits of the north and south walls (the latter on the left here). In the mid-1800s the western section of the ruined church was restored, although only to a height of one storey. The rest, the tower and possibly five storey-high nave, had been lost to the ravages of time.

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

The tombstones along the outer wall of the church, lining St Catherine's Passage, are from the church itself. They date from 1371-1503. In the mid-1800s the western section of the ruined church was restored and the best-preserved tombstones were displayed on the wall. Others had a chequered history, being moved around to be shown off in the houses of the nobility. Those of the Wacke family from the late 1300s are on public display at Kohtu 6 on Toompea.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Tallinn, Estonia

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul is on Vene street, although the term 'cathedral' is sometimes dropped in favour of 'church'. A Dominican Friary was established here in the 1200s. It was destroyed by the fire of 1531 which also claimed the neighbouring St Catherine's Church (above). The pseudo-Gothic 'cathedral' was built over the ruins of the friary's refectory. Its interior, with its neo-Classical facade, was completed in 1845.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul

The remains of part of the former friary walls were rebuilt around the new cathedral. In recent years several changes have been made inside the cathedral in order to add more dignity to its outside appearance, including the addition of  stained glass windows. The cathedral has four big lancet windows on the south side and five more on the north side. The windows on the southern side of the building open on the inner courtyard of the former Dominican monastery.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul

The altar painting in the church, which is entitled 'The Ascension of Virgin Mary', is a gift from Bavarian King Ludwig I (1825-1848). Two doors down from the cathedral's entrance is this building (in white). As mentioned in the text for St Catherine's Church, it was a storeroom for the Dominican friary, and now serves as a restaurant. The Dominican friary itself used to be located behind it and to the left of this photo, with St Catherine's to the right, down the narrow passage.

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