Johvi – St Michael’s Church


The church of St. Michael in Johvi appeared for the first time in sources in 1364, in relation with the invasion of Novgorod the Great. It had to be built earlier, probably in the mid-fourteenth century. In 1426, the Cistercians sold their land in the parish of Johvi to the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order, which from then on took over the patronage of the church. In the fifteenth or at the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was rebuilt, the tower was added, the interior was vaulted and the whole was fortified. The temple was destroyed during the wars: at the beginning of the Livonian War in 1558 and during the Great Northern War in 1703. According to tradition, at the hands of soldiers of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, over a hundred peasants were to be killed in the church. In 1728, the church received the baroque crown of the tower, replaced in 1875 by the present, neo-gothic.


The church is an aisleless building and one of the largest single-nave temples in Estonia with internal dimensions of 35,15 x 13,85 meters. As initially it had defensive functions, it had small, narrow windows and was surrounded by an earth rampart with a palisade. After the reconstruction of the 15th / 16th century, it received wooden hoarding, and armory was arranged over the vaults. On the west side, a tower with a defense and observation functions was added. Under the altar there were basement rooms with the function of a crypt, a chapel and a sacristy, and two passages from the chancel led to them. This solution derived from the romanesque tradition is quite unusual and rare in Estonia. The church is also one of two in Estonia in which buttresses were built inside the building, not at the outer walls.

Current state

Currently the church is adapted to visits, there is a museum in it, placed in two underground rooms, presenting archaeological finds, among others the oldest metal elements from Estonia from the tombs in Jäbara. The church also hosts concerts due to its excellent acoustics.

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