Tallinn – city defensive walls


   The construction of town fortifications began in 1265, under the reign of Margaret Sambiria, daughter of Pomeranian duke Sambor II and queen of Denmark, who received Estonia in lifelong reign. For this reason, fortifications were also called the walls of Margaret. In 1310, the Danish governor Johannes Cannes initiated the first extension, which was continued during the fourteenth century. The fortifications were gradually extended and strengthened, as a result of which Tallinn was one of the best fortified cities on the Baltic region in the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, under Swedish rule, the fortifications were modernized in the early modern bastion system, adapted to the use of artillery. Older defensive walls, however, still functioned. In the mid-nineteenth century, as in other cities, the dismantling of town fortifications was begun, fortunately still preserving a significant part of them for posterity.


   The oldest town walls from the 13th century were less than 5 meters high and about 1,5 meters thick at the base. In the fourteenth century, their height increased to about 13-16 meters, and two to three meters thick. The town was additionally protected by about 14 towers and an irrigated moat.
In their final, late medieval shape, the fortifications were 2350 meters long and were fortified with 46 towers (although 40 or even 60 are also given). Most of the towers had a horseshoe shape, but there were also four-sided ones (Neitsitorn), bartizans (Tallitorn, Nunnadetagune Torn) hung on the wall and cylindrical, as late medieval cannon tower Kiek in de Kok.
Town gates were usually located in four-sided towers. Later, they were strengthened by developed foregates, the most valuable of which, at the beginning of the sixteenth century was given to the Coastal Gate, in the form of large artillery tower called Fat Margaret (Paks Margareeta). It had 25 meters in diameter, 20 meters high, and walls thick up to 5 meters. The outer system of the fortifications was an irrigated moat. A separate ring of fortifications was also given to the Toompea castle hill.

Current state

   Today Tallinn is one of the few cities with a very well-preserved system of medieval fortifications. To date, 26 towers and around 1.85 km of the defensive wall have survived.
The best section is the west and northwestern part of the circuit from the Grusbeke Tagune Tower, Epping Tower, Plate Tower, Köismäe Tower, Loewenschede and Nunnadetagune towers, Golden Leg Tower (Kuldjala Torn), Sauna Tower, up to the Nun’s Tower ). Luckily, the foreground on a large part of this fragment of fortifications was not built up with houses. Further, near the castle hill, two town gates survived: Short Leg Gate and Long Leg Gate, and a large south-west section, where the towers stands out: Stable (Tallitorn) bartizan, Maiden’s Tower (Neitsitorn) and Kiek in de Kok cannon tower from 1475. Its name means to “peep into the kitchen”, which referred to the possibility of viewing nearby houses from the height of the tower.
Also on the south and east sides of circuit, many elements of medieval fortifications have been preserved, although here are more often single towers hidden in urban buildings, for example the Assauwe Tower, the Mnichadetagune Tower or the Helleman Tower. Above you can see the Bremen Tower and the Stolting Tower. It is also worth mentioning the Viru Gate, that is, two towers being the only preserved fragments of the foregate. On the northern tip of the fortifications there is a Coastal Gate, otherwise known as Suur Rannavarav, which from the beginning of the sixteenth century was defended by the surviving to this day, powerful, Fat Margaret bastion (Paks Margareeta). Currently, it houses the seat of the Estonian Maritime Museum.

show Coastal Gate on map

show Viru Gate on map

show Long Leg Gate on map

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Borowski T, Miasta, zamki i klasztory, Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.