Oleviste-St.Olav's, Tallinn

40 Reviews

Pikk 48 +372 645 7900, 372 641 2241

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • St Olav's Cathedral
    St Olav's Cathedral
    by Chinggis_n_Borte
  • Looking up!
    Looking up!
    by toonsarah
  • Oleviste-St.Olav's
    by toonsarah
  • Chinggis_n_Borte's Profile Photo

    Spiralling Staircase of St Olav's

    by Chinggis_n_Borte Updated Jan 7, 2015

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    On one windy and sporadically rainy day, we went up to the lookout at St Olav's Cathedral. The staircase going up to the lookout is a spiral, and the descent can be rather dizzying.

    The wind was strong and fierce when up at the lookout.

    The view of the whole city from the lookout was splendid.

    St Olav's Church in Tallinn is the city's biggest medieval structure.

    It is named after Norwegian King Olav II Haraldsson who was made a saint. The church was first mentioned in 1267. The Church became one of the main churches in the Lower Town of Tallinn, and originally, the congregation mostly comprised of Scandinavian merchants and craftsmen and few Estonians.

    Lightning strikes on the tower have caused extensive fires.

    St Olav's Cathedral
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    St Olav's church

    by toonsarah Written Jun 23, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Although the tower of this church is impressively tall, and still dominates the skyline of old Tallinn, it is perhaps hard to believe that for a time (from 1549-1625 when the Eiffel Tower was built) it was, at 159 metres, the tallest building in the world! But so it is claimed by some – and disputed by others!

    It was intended to serve as a beacon for ships approaching the harbour here, but such height also brought challenges, and the spire was frequently struck by lightning and the church consequently burnt down on three of these occasions (in 1625, 1820 and 1931), each time to be rebuilt. Today’s version is a little shorter, just 124 metres, but still impressive. For a small fee, 2€, you can climb it to enjoy the extensive views, but as this involves rather a lot of stairs (there is no lift) I decided to pass on that opportunity, figuring that the views from the upper town’s viewing platforms (see other tip) would have to suffice. If you’re feeling fitter than I did, the tower is open April – October, seven days a week, from 10.00-18.00 (till 20.00 in July and August).

    Meanwhile, back at ground level, I also had to skip going inside the church as unfortunately a funeral was in progress when we were here. We could only go briefly into the porch area and peer up into the tower rising above us (see photo four).

    This is an old church, even by Tallinn’s standards. It was first mentioned in 1267, but is thought to date from the previous century. It soon became one of the main churches in the Lower Town. Various legends insist the church got its unusual name from either the famous giant or from a mysterious stranger who built it, but the truth is more prosaic – it was in fact dedicated to King Olaf II of Norway. In 1523 the evangelical preaching of its then chaplain, Zacharias Hasse, led to the start of the reformation in Tallinn and St Olaf’s became a major Lutheran place of worship in the city before, in 1950, becoming a Baptist church. Less positively, during Soviet times, its spire was fitted with powerful radio and surveillance equipment by the KGB, taking advantage of its height.

    Today its dominance over the city’s skyline is guaranteed, as by law no building can be built higher than this.

    The church’s website, below, is in Estonian only.

    Next tip: St Nicholas Orthodox Church

    St Olaf's from Toompea Looking up!
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • starship's Profile Photo

    Oleviste Kirik ~ St. Olaf's Church

    by starship Updated Mar 19, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Oleviste Kirik, ("St. Olaf's Church") is one of the several notable churches in Old Town Tallinn. The church was built in the 13th century, and rebuilt in the 15th century. It's spire or tower of 400 feet was once the tallest in Europe, but that distinction was latter taken away by the Cologne Cathedral. A legend surrounds the architect whose name was also Olaf. Legend has it that he fell to his death from atop the tower, and when his body hit the ground, a snake and toad crawled out of his mouth! A current fact regarding this particular church is that the KGB used Oleviste's towering spire as a radio tower until 1991.

    In the entry way of the church, you will find someone who will sell you a ticket to climb the tower which was 25 EEK when we arrived. However, no one in my family wanted to do that, and the inside of the church was roped off; but you could get some view of the inside and the altar and I think the accompanying picture gives a fairly good idea of how beautiful it was. Please click to see the additional photos.

    Oleviste Kirik (St. Olaf's Church) Sign gives hours and admission fees Oleviste Kirik, Tallinn
    Related to:
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    St Olaf's- something to look forward to next time!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Feb 11, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    St Olaf's church must have been the first sight that Hanseatic merchants spotted on the skyline on their approach to Tallinn, and no wonder, as it had the distinction of being the tallest building in Europe between 1549 and 1625. These days, its 124m spire has long since been dwarfed by more recent structures, but it is still a sublime piece of architecture that is perfect in its simplicity.

    Sadly St Olaf's was abused by the KGB during the Russian occupation, who used the tower to transmit radio signals from their nearby headquarters. In terms of winning the hearts and minds of Estonians in order to unite them into an integrated Soviet identity, it is clear that the occupying Russians were not only incompetent, but masters of offence - whether this is due to lamentable emotional intelligence on the part of decisionmakers or deliberate, calculated insult (or a combination of the two) is a matter for debate.

    Unfortunately St Olaf's is closed to the public between October and April, except if you attend a service (see website below for details): I don't know whether it was just a function of the prevailing wind direction when we visited in December, but the street corner outside the entrance to St Olav's was consistently the windiest spot in the entire city, so you have been warned!

    In the summer, you can tackle the 258 steps for a view that promises to be well worth the climb!

    St Olaf

    Was this review helpful?

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo

    St. Olav’s Church - Oleviste kirik

    by call_me_rhia Updated Sep 19, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    St. Olav’s Church is a Baptist church which dates back to 12th century and was dedicated King Olaf II of Norway, who was also a Saint. It is well-known for his huge 1500 bell-tower and spire: originally 159 metres tall. The purpose of this tower is not clear, but apparently it was used as a maritime signpost. What we know for sure is the purpose it had in more recent times: between 1944 and 1991 the KGB used it as a radio tower and surveillance point.

    In my opinion it’s not worth to vist the church inside: it’s very plain and uninteresting. What is really worth doing, if you are not afraid of heights, is to climb the tower's viewing platform for excellent views. The tower is open from April through November, daily between 10:00 and 18:00. Admission is EEK 30kr (August 2010).

    Was this review helpful?

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo

    View from St Olaf’s Church Tower

    by MalenaN Updated Apr 23, 2010

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The spire of St Olaf’s Church is 124 metres tall and if you climb the 258 steps to the viewing point you will be rewarded with a great panorama view over Tallinn.
    I climbed twice during my visit in Tallinn. First on the day I arrived and then on the day I left, as that was the first sunny day and it was clear. Luckily the spiral staircase change direction about halfway up the spire.
    It is 30 EEK (April 2010) to climb the tower. It is open between 10 - 18, April - October.

    View from St Olaf's Church View from St Olaf's Church View from St Olaf's Church View from St Olaf's Church View from St Olaf's Church
    Related to:
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • grandmaR's Profile Photo

    Original Tall Church

    by grandmaR Written Sep 15, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Unlike the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, this is an Estonian church. The port lecturer told us we should look throughout Scandinavia for Olav/Olaf's. So I told the pedicab driver that I wanted to see this particular church. We didn't go in.

    The 400 foot tall tower was once Europe's tallest until Cologne Cathedral was built. The church was named for the11th century Norwegian King Olaf II. However there is another similarly named person who is associated with this church - the architect Olev who offered to build the church for free if the people of Tallin could discover his name. According to legend, Olev died when he fell from the tower.

    Famous tall tower Looking up at the steeple Side of St. Olav's Roof detail Window detail
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • antistar's Profile Photo

    Lower Town: St. Olaf's Church

    by antistar Updated Jul 23, 2009

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Once the tallest building in the world, but now just a little bit shorter, St. Olaf's continues the fishing theme of Tallinn's three main Protestant churches. This time the great height of the church's spire was designed to be seen far out to sea, and help the fisherman navigate their way back safely to port.

    These days this isn't necessary, but the 232 steep narrow steps of the steeple can be climbed for great views of the city, if only during the summer months. During the rest of the year you can enjoy taking pictures of the church's slender, snow covered spire, now measuring 123 meters, down from its once record breaking height of 159 meters.

    In addition to being used as a reference for seafarers, the church's great spire was used by the KGB for radio and surveillance purposes.

    St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn View from St. Olaf's View from St. Olaf's

    Was this review helpful?

  • lalikes's Profile Photo

    St. Olaf's

    by lalikes Written Oct 10, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This was the tallest church in medieval Europe. Built in the 1500's, the building inspired visitors. At present, the Baptist congregation resides here. It's open Sun 10 a.m. to noon. Monday 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Lunaina's Profile Photo

    Climb the Oleviste Church

    by Lunaina Written Sep 29, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Oleviste Church near the end of Pikk Street, close to Fat Margaret, has a observation deck at 124 metres... it is a big climb, small steps in a narrow tower, but the sight from 124m is great, we had a good sunny day so we enjoyed our views!

    Was this review helpful?

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo

    climb St Olav's and get an excellent view

    by angiebabe Updated Aug 22, 2008

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Getting to the top is quite a climb - this tower is 120m high - but the views are stunning and well worth all the effort!

    There are great views over the old town, Toompea Hill and out to the port and sea.

    Only about 3 euro entrance fee.

    birds eye view of all the city walls turrets looking to the harbour past the round gate below close up of Toompea
    Related to:
    • Adventure Travel
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo

    St Olav's- once one of highest spires in the world

    by angiebabe Updated Aug 22, 2008

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    I have to find my more indepth info but this church tower was once one of the highest in the world, ahead of its time.

    Today it is an active evangelical church open to tourists and with stunning views over the old town and Toompea from the the top of the many steps up. Well worth the heart exercise to get to the top!

    Apparently its architect, Olav or Olaf, fell to his death from its 120 metre tower!

    About 3 euro entrance fee.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

  • leics's Profile Photo

    Oleviste Kirik

    by leics Written Jul 20, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    St Olaf's church, named after King Olav ll of Norway (who was pretty good at killing pagans, apparently).

    There's been a church here since at least 1297, but it's famous because at one time it was the tallest building in the world. Well, so they say........I'm not sure if the pyramids weren't actually taller....maybe it should be 'the tallest building in Europe'?

    The spire is 124m high now, but in the 1500s it was 159m: hardly surprising that it was hit by lightning at least 8 times between the 1600s and the 1800s!

    You can climb the tower for excellent views of the city, if you like: the interior is really nothing special after its renovations in the mid-1800s.

    Whilst I was there the copper roof was being replaced. If you look carefully at the second photo you'll see two tiny workmen climbing down it: rather a scary job, in my opinion!

    At the rear, though the locked railings meant I couldn't get a close look, is the magnificently carved tomb of one Johann Ballivi, a plague victim who died in the fifteenth century.

    High in the sky........ Brave workmen.....
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • pure1942's Profile Photo

    Oleviste Church

    by pure1942 Updated Jun 5, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Oleviste Church or St. Olaf's/St. Olav's is located in the Lower Old Town near the Great Coast Gate. A church has existed on this site since the 13th century and was once the world's tallest building! The tower of the church when it was completed in the early 16th century reached a height of 159 metres!
    During it's history the church has been detroyed or severely damaged numerous times, having burnt down 3 times and been struck by lightning on multiple occasions. One of the fires resulted in the recondtruction of the tower to a shorter height of 124 metre tower. You can climb the tower to enjoy great views over the Old and New Town areas of tallinn and beyond. Be warned that the climb is steep and long!!! Entrance to the church is free but to climb the tower is 30 EEK.

    The church is dedicated to King Olav II of Norway and coincidently was built by another Olav who was killed when he fell from the church tower. Legend has it that after he hit the ground and was killed a toad and a snake crawled from his mouth!

    The church was for centuries a great aid to sailors who used the churches massive tower as a guide to the city of Tallinn.

    Oleviste Church Oleviste Church Spire Sunset Over Oleviste Church Oleviste Church Oleviste Church from Ferry (On the Right)
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • BillNJ's Profile Photo

    St. Olav's Church - once world's tallest building

    by BillNJ Written Mar 15, 2008

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Between 1549 and 1625, when the spire burnt down after a lightning strike, St. Olav's Church was the tallest building in the world. During the Soviet occupation from 1944 until 1991, the Soviet KGB used Oleviste’s spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. It currently continues as an active Baptist church.

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Tallinn

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

15 travelers online now

Comments

View all Tallinn hotels