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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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.