Tallinn – Toompea Teutonic Castle


   The first information about the castle hill relate to 1219, in which, according to the chronicler Henry of Latvia, the Danish army of Valdemar II won the victory over the Ests and took over the pagan hillfort Lyndanisse, identified with today’s Tallinn. In 1227, the Order of Livonian Brothers of the Sword took advantage of the weakening of the kingdom of Denmark and seized northern Estonia. Probably at this time the first stone castle was built in which the commandry was located. After the defeat of the Livonian Brothers at Saule Battle, they were forced to join the Teutonic Order and return in 1238 the Rewel (Tallinn) back to Denmark. Under Danish rule, the stronghold was until 1346, when due to financial troubles, the territories of Estonia, of course along with the castle in Tallinn, were sold to the Teutonic Order. These began rebuilding, so that the stronghold could meet the requirements of the conventual castle. The essential stage of work ended before the end of the 14th century.
In 1561, the order was no longer able to provide defense to the subjects, and as a result the city took over the care of Sweden. Swedish troops defended Tallinn twice: in 1570 and 1577, against the invasions of the troops of Ivan the Terrible. The Swedes also transformed the fortified castle into the representative and administrative center of political power in Estonia.
In 1710, Sweden lost the territory of today’s Estonia to the Russian Empire. The new administration eventually transformed the castle into a palace. In the eastern part of the castle complex, among other things, a baroque and neoclassical wing was added. It contained the governor’s offices and housing quarters. After the announcement of the Estonian Declaration of Independence in 1918, a building was erected on the site of the castle, in which the republic’s parliament was located.


   Before being taken over by the Teutonic Order, the castle probably consisted of a four-sided main tower and a defensive wall, erected in the south-western part of the hill, the second, north-eastern part of which was occupied by cathedral buildings with canons and bishop courts. On the eastern side, the castle dominated the city, with which it was connected by a single curtain of the wall (cut by a gate tower), protecting the cathedral buildings from the south.
   In the second half of the fourteenth century, the Danish main tower was built into the corner of the Teutonic walls, which formed a four-wing conventual house from the north-west. On its first floor, all the rooms required by the rule were placed: a two-aisle refectory in the east wing, a dormitory with a latrine in the west wing (in a projecting turret), a chapel and a chapter house in the north wing. The commander’s private chambers were located in the south wing. The rooms on the ground floor were used for economic purposes, and all wings were connected by an external cloister surrounding the entire courtyard. The entire upper ward from the north, east and south was surrounded by an outer wall, which separated two outer wards.
   Probably before the end of the fourteenth century, the south-east tower called Stür den Kerl was erected, and the south-west tower of the outer bailey, called Pikk Hermann (High Hermann), with an original height of 35 meters. At the beginning of the 16th century, it was raised to about 45 meters, by adding the highest storey, mounted on stone corbels forming pointed arcades covering the machicolation. Before the mid-fifteenth century, the height of the defensive walls was raised and two additional towers were added on the northern side of the outer bailey: Landskrone in the north-east and Pilsticker in the north-west, the latter being only a round bartizan, hung at the corner of the walls. The final appearance of the castle was achieved in the 16th century, when all the towers, like the aforementioned Pikk Hermann, were raised by the highest storeys, mounted on the widened breastworks. The whole of the castle, except for the safest, protected by high escarpments west side, was protected by the outer wall of a zwinger.

Current state

   Currently, Toompea Castle is the seat of the Estonian Parliament, government and the highest authorities of the republic. Its characteristic medieval tower, High Hermann, 45 meters high, is one of the symbols of the capital. Apart from this, the eastern side of the castle and the two northern towers, Landskrone and Pilsticker, have retained their original character. The remaining part has been thoroughly rebuilt, although the original arrangement of the upper castle and the two wards is still legible in the pictures from a great height. Unfortunately, the monument is not open to the public, with the exception of the underground under the Pikk Hermann tower.

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Borowski T, Miasta, zamki i klasztory, Inflanty, Warszawa 2010.
Tuulse A., Die Burgen in Estland und Lettland, Dorpat 1942.
Zamki regionu Morza Bałtyckiego, red. T.Kjaergaard, Bydgoszcz 1995.