Tallinn – St Olaf’s Church


The first mention of the church of St. Olaf, built on the market square of Scandinavian settlers, dates from 1267. The patron of the temple was then the king of Norway, as well as the saint of the Catholic Church, Olaf II Havaldsson. However, the popular is the Tallinn legend, linking the name of the patron with the architect who, according to the story, was to fall from the church tower. In the fifteenth century, the temple was rebuilt into a basilica, and in the years 1513-1523, a St. Mary’s chapel, founded by a local merchant, Hans Pawels, was added to the church. From 1524, when the Reformation reached Tallinn, the church became a Protestant temple. Under the influence of iconoclasm, many antique furnishings, including paintings, were destroyed in the church. The historic building was also destroyed by fires, the last of which exploded in 1820. After the reconstruction in 1840, the church gained today’s appearance. During World War II, it happily avoided major damages.


From the 15th century, the church has the form of a three-nave basilica. The over 30-meter central nave was then covered with a stellar vault, and the aisles with rib vaults. From the west side, there is a huge, today 123 meter high tower. In the sixteenth century, its height was 159 meters and was one of the highest in Europe. In the years 1513-1523, the St. Mary’s chapel was added to the church from the south.

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