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Churches of Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Tallinn

by Peter Kessler, 26 July 2009

Part 8: Churches of Vanalinn

St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Tallinn, Estonia

St Nicholas Orthodox Church (Nikolai kirik in Estonian) lies at the top end of Vene street. It was here in the Sulevimäe and Vene (Russian) streets area of Tallinn that a marketplace of medieval Russian merchants sprang up from at least the twelfth century, at a time when merchants from all over Europe were flocking to Tallinn. At the centre of the marketplace an Orthodox church was founded and, in one form or another, it continues to operate to this day.

St Nicholas Orthodox Church

In 1442 the city's walls were being rebuilt, and this necessitated a short move to the current site where a new church building was erected. The twin-towered, copper-domed neo-Classical building dates to 1820-1827. It was designed by Luigi Rusca, court architect from St Petersburg. The Orthodox congregation that maintains the church belongs to the Moscow patriarchate, although the Orthodox church in Constantinople claims jurisdiction, an ongoing bone of contention.

St Nicholas Orthodox Church

The church contains a treasured iconostasis whose fame rivals the Zarudny iconostasis which is located in the nearby Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (below). The iconostasis is a sculptured wall which was consecrated by Russian Czarina Sophia Alekseyevna in 1678, with the work being carried out by the masters of Pskov and the Moscow armoury after they received a commission from the princes Ivan and Peter - the future Peter I the Great (1682-1725).

The Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Tallinn, Estonia

The Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (Issanda Muutmise Peakirik in Estonian) is located on Suur-Kloostri street in Tallinn's Old Town (Vanalinn). The church is heavily hidden by surrounding buildings, narrow streets, and high walls and trees. The medieval Cistercian Abbey of St Michael was built here in the 1200s (located next door and now housing the Gustavus Adolphus School), and the church served the needs of the monks until the Reformation.

Issanda Muutmise Peakirik

The church was given over to an Orthodox congregation in 1716 (in 1732 the abbey chapel was rebuilt as the Transfiguration Church). It has retained its original form, save the addition of a Baroque spire in 1776 and exterior repairs in the early 1800s. It contains the valuable Zarudny iconostasis, a Baroque sculptured wall which dates to 1720 and whose fame is only rivalled by the older iconostasis which is in the nearby St Nicholas Orthodox Church on Vene street.

The Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

The church grounds also contain the grave monument of the Orthodox martyr, Bishop St Platon (Amandus Adamson, who died in 1931), and the building houses the oldest church bell in Tallinn, one by Matthias Beninck dated to 1575. While this is a century and-a-half younger than the old bell in the Church of the Holy Ghost, that one was lost in a fire in 2002 and its oldest remaining bell now dates to 1638. The church holds a service every Sunday, and was refurbished in 2009.



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