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Churches of Estonia

Gallery: Churches of Saare County

by Peter Kessler & Anu Wintschalek, 7 August 2020

Part 2: Churches of Pöide & Muhu

St Mary's Church / Pöide Maarja kirik, Pöide, Saaremaa, Estonia

St Mary's Church, Pöide (Pöide Maarja kirik in Estonian) stands on the northern side of Oti tee (Oti Way), at the junction with Pöide-Levala tee in the north-eastern corner of the island of Saaremaa, close to the crossing to Muhu. The church was built in the middle of the fourteenth century on the ruins of Pöide Order Castle (the 'Order' being the Livonian Knights). The existence of a former fortress is evidenced by below-ground ruins to the north of the church.

St Mary's Church / Pöide Maarja kirik, Pöide, Saaremaa, Estonia

Only part of the lower area of the church's side walls have survived from this period. It is the largest single-nave church in western Estonia and the islands. Its rich interior decoration is one of the best examples of Estonian high Gothic. The main portal is located on the southern side (under the tower), rather than the more typical entrance at the west end. Inside, near the south wall, can be seen trapezoidal tombstones and their fragments embedded into the floor of the choir.

St Catherine's Church / Katariina kirik, Liiva, Muhu, Estonia

St Catherine's Church in Liiva (Katariina kirik) is on a side street south-west of the junction between the Kantsi road and Road 10, in the centre of the island of Muhu, immediately north of Saaremaa. As Hermann von Wartberge's church, this towerless structure was first mentioned in the year of its initial completion - 1267 - dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria who was martyred in the early fourth century AD Roman empire. Possible changes were later made to it.

St Catherine's Church / Katariina kirik, Liiva, Muhu, Estonia

The main entrance - the west door seen in the first photo - partially survives from 1617, indicating at least one of those possible changes, but in its proportions the church is a classic example of similar medieval churches in Estonia. It would initially also have provided a defensive purpose. The building was damaged by fire in 1941, during the Second World War, and stood roofless until 1958. Luckily the original vaults, over the Gothic church rather than under it, have survived.

Virgin Mary Orthodox Church / Rinsi Muhu kirik, Rinsi, Muhu, Estonia

The Virgin Mary Orthodox Church (Rinsi Muhu kirik in Estonian) is on the south-west side of the main road through Rinsi on the island of Muhu, overlooking the junction between the two roads that head towards Road 149. It is one of two functioning Orthodox churches on the island, built by local people in 1871-1873 as the first of those churches. Its initial (and full) dedication was Our Lady of Kazan Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God, and it remains active today (2020).

One photo on this page kindly contributed by Kirsty Cabot, one by Urmo Saks, one by Patrik Hierner, and two by Mark Pfalz, all via the 'History Files: Churches of Estonia' Flickr group.



Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.