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Toomkirik Tips (9)

The Dome Cathedral

The second of Toompea’s cathedral buildings is the Lutheran one dedicated to St Mary but more usually referred to as Toomkirik, the Dome cathedral. This is the oldest church in Tallinn and indeed in mainland Estonia. Of course it has been much added to over the years, and substantially repaired and in places rebuilt after extensive damage in the great fire of 1684, but the core medieval structure remains at its heart. The spire though is a later Baroque addition (1778). The cathedral dominates the winding streets in its vicinity yet is somehow modest enough (compared to most cathedrals) to fit right in to peaceful Toompea.

There is no charge to enter the section immediately inside the door, which I did – far enough in to get a sense of the atmosphere (lofty ceilings, whitewashed walls, dark wood pews and lots of the traditional “epitaphs” I had also seen in Riga’s cathedral on the walls). No photos are allowed, and to proceed further you must make a donation, which as I had limited time I chose not to do. You can also, for a fee, climb the tower which must have some great views as even from ground level on Toompea they are pretty good (see next tip).

The website below is mostly in Estonian but has the essential information for visitors (opening hours, service times, tickets to the tower etc) in English too.

Next tip: Toompea’s viewing platforms

toonsarah's Profile Photo
Jun 23, 2014

Upper Town: Toomkirik

The Toomkirik is Tallinn's main Lutheran church. It sits on top of Toompea, just like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, but is much more subdued. The contrast of plain white walls, and simple construction of the Toomkirik, compared with the ostentatious Nevsky, is not only a reflection of Estonian and Russian history, but also their culture. The Estonians tend to see themselves as introverted, and the Russians extroverted, and that certainly the way the two churches look.

Inside the Toomkirk is a similar austere Protestant design. The only thing to liven up the plain white walls and simple lines of pews are the ensigns of the many fishing ships that untidily crowd around the edges of the nave. The ensigns belong to ships who hope for the church's blessing when out on the dangerous waters of the Baltic Sea. In fact fishing is the mundane and work-a-day theme common to all three of the main Tallinn churches, again in contrast to the Nevsky, which seems more to do with pomp and ceremony than the basics of life.

antistar's Profile Photo
Jun 03, 2013

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Located in the Upper Town on Toompea Hill, Toomkirik or Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin is Estonia's Oldest Church, being founded in the 13th century by the Danish conquerors.
However, while the original wooden church is thought to date from around 1219, the church as we see it today really only came to fruition during the 15th and 17th centuries, with the tower being added later in 1779.
The interior of the church holds the tombs and burial places of some very important people from Estonia's past, including 16th century Swedish commander Pontus de la Gardie, Admiral Samuel Greigh and Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern.

The Church is open between 9am and 4pm every day except Monday and entry is free.

pure1942's Profile Photo
Dec 17, 2008

Oldest church in Toompea, Tallinn and Estonia!?

This Lutheran church, Toomkirik or Dome church, dating from the 14th century is apparently Estonia's oldest church.

It was closed and had a sign on the door that it was closed for choir practice or something so unfortunately I was unable to get in to see the interior. The guidebooks advise that it has many fine carved tombs inside.

angiebabe's Profile Photo
Aug 22, 2008
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The main Lutheran church in Tallinn is Toomkirik, which stands high on Toompea hill overlooking the Lower Old Town.

The church is thought to have been founded in1219, a wooden structure which was rebuilt in stone in the mid 13th century but most of what is now visible reflects the changes, renovations and restorations of the subsequent centruies.

To get into the church you have to go down several steps. This is because after a great fire in 1684, the rubble left had raised the level of the square outside.

All over the walls are wooden funerary monuments, elaborately embellished coats-of-arms which were carried in with the coffin and then left on display in the church as a memorial to the dead person. I suspect that the more elaborate one's monument the more impressive one as thought to be: some of them are hugely complex pieces of carving.

There are various tombs of important personages dotted about, but I was intrigued by the one in the the photo (no flash). It's the tomb of Scotsman Samuel Greig, who was purportedly one of Catherine the Great's lovers.

Some nice twiddly stone and woodwork, and a lovely chopped-off tombstone tucked around the back (see photos again........still no flash) showing the somewhat chunky lower parts of a past wealthy merchant and his wife.

leics's Profile Photo
Jul 26, 2008


Founded in 1233 this church is the dome of Tallinn. Its structures dates from the 15th and 17th century. The tombes are quite interesting. The place was a burial ground for the rich and famous in Tallinn.

jonkb's Profile Photo
Mar 26, 2007

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

This is the main Lutheran church in Estonia. During many centuries it was rebuilt many times, but firstly it was mentioned in the beginning of 13th century, when it was built from wood, later it was rebuilt from stone, and also added baroque style steeple. There are inside gravestones from the medieval times. Here are buried admiral Samuel Greigh, who was Catherine’s Great lover, daughter of Swedish king Johan III and many others.

Inguuna's Profile Photo
Feb 04, 2007

TOOMKIRK - Cathedral of Virgin Mary

It is thought that the cathedral was founded soon after the Danish conquered Toompea in 1219. The church is mentioned for the first time in 1233, when the Dominican monks had built a stone church to replace the original wooden church. In the fires in 1684 most buildings in Toompea were destroyed, also the church. It was reopened already two years later but the renovations were continued until the end of the century. The Baroque tower was added later, in 1778-1779. When you ented the cathedral you probably stand on the plate with a name of Otto Johann Thuve, who was also known as Don Juan of Tallinn. A little before his death in 1696 he asked that he would be buried on this site so that people who entered the church would tread on him and thus wash out his sins.

The most astonishing details in the cathedral are the coats of arms on the walls. They are mainly from the 17th to 20th century. Most of them are Baroque like the rest of church's interior. The pulpit and the main altar by Christian Ackermann from Tallinn were finished in 1696. On the northern wall there are tombs of some wellknown historic persons. E.g. Pontus de la Gardie who was the commander of the Swedish troops in the Liv war, explorer A.J. von Krusestern who was the first man to sail around the world under Russian flag and Amiral Samuel Greig from Fife, Scotland, who was said to be a lover of Catherine the Great.

Sininen's Profile Photo
Mar 18, 2006
toonsarah's Profile Photo


"A medieval marvel"
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antistar's Profile Photo


"Shades of Grey"
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"Tallinn - A Great Mixture of the Old and the New"
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"Tallinn - medieval spirit city"
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CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo


"In the bleak midwinter ..."
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Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

This is the main Lutheran church in Estonia and one of three functioning medieval churches.
The present appearance of the Cathedral is the result of much rebuilding. The original temporary wooden church is thought to have been built on Toompea Hill in 1219, and was first mentioned in 1233.

bambino36's Profile Photo
Oct 18, 2005

Things To Do Near Toomkirik

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Russian orthodox cathedral - Aleksander Nevsky cathedral

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Great Guild Hall

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Museum of Occupation

The Museum of Occupation is a wonderful tomb like building, fronted by a giant monolithic granite door that opens automatically when you approach it. Inside you'll find a small but interesting...
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Estonian History Museum

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These atmospheric ruins sit on the banks of the Pirita River. They are all that remains of a large convent that dates back to the 15th century when it was founded by local merchants. Its church was...
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Getting to Toomkirik


Toom Kooli 6


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