Churches of Hiiumaa
Hiiumaa was first mentioned on October 1, 1228, a date which stands on the
letter of liege from king Heinrich VII to the Saare-Lääne bishop Gotfried, where
there is a phrase about Hiiumaa saying: “insulae deserta quae dicidur Dageida”
(“An empty island called Dageida”).
In this short review of the churches in Hiiumaa, passages of Vello Kaskor´s “Hiiumaa Ringteed” have been used. The book was published by Maalehe Raamat in 2003.
Hiiumaa.ee thanks the author and publisher for the right to use the texts presented in the book.
The altar painting “Ülestõusmine” (“Resurrection”) of Emmaste church was painted by Tõnis Grenzstein in 1900.
The Ruins of Kuri Orthodox Church
To isolate the Saxon Baltic Sea provinces from Prussia, their special status was abolished and in 1885 Russian was adopted as an official language instead of German and was also set to be the learning language in schools. The effect of Russification on Hiiumaa was pretty positive. The state and orthodox church did not deny money to the congregation and that resulted in the creation of really good schools for their time, which (at least in Kuriste) also accepted students from non orthodox families.
Although during just the years 1885-1887 1023 people from Pühalepa congregation turned to apostolic orthodoxy, the frenzy of changing faith soon blew over. The congregation was active up until the middle of the 20th century. Then Kuri church closed its doors and decayed during the time it was unused so that in April 1994 it was necessary to tear down the dangerously hanging tower.
Kuriste Orthodox Church
In Kuriste there is the only still active orthodox church in Hiiumaa. It was
built by people from Saaremaa during the years 1884-1890, the yellow bricks are
said to be brought from Riga across the iced-over sea using horses and oxen. Up
until the church was ready, services were held in the livingroom of a man called
Tõnis Padu from Matse household in Lelu village. The curch bells hung in the ash
tree in the garden of the household.
The church was named the Church of The Birth of the Divine Mother and was auspicated in 1890.
Kõpu Orthodox Church-Schoolhouse
Near Kõpu lighthouse there is a quaint granite building. It is a Russian Orthodox church built in the latter cuarter of the 19th century. Later it has served as a school and culture house. Kõpu school was established in 1873. In the beginning of the 20th century it was used as a stopover by Peeter Süda, who was collecting folk tunes in the area. Later it was also used for shelter and a place to find motives for his work by famous graphic artist Eduard Viiralt.
The Ruins of Käina Church
According to the contract of 1254 between Saare Lääne bishop Heinrich and the
High Master of the Order Eberhard von Seyne the diocesan area of Hiiumaa was
divided into two parts and Käina became the center of one of them. In the middle
of the 13th century a new house of God was built in the newly established
parish. The building´s incinerated ruins were discovered in 1981 while clearing
the nave of the church.
A stone church was erected here in 1492-1515 during the reign of Saare-Lääne bishop Johannes III Orges. It is one of the youngest and quaintest medieval sacral buildings in the Western Archipelago, a simple gothic church with a single-aisle nave. Between the years 1859-1860 Käina church was thoroughly rebuilt. The southern wall of the nave was torn down and the nave was extended with a large new added structure in the southern side of the church. At first the church´s saint was Saint Nicholas, later however Saint Martin.
On October 14, 1941 the church was hit by an incendiary bomb which, dropping in through the ceiling of the choir burned the building to the ground.
The church´s altar painting is painted by an unknown Baltic-Saxon artist and called "Kristus ristil" (“Christ On The Cross”) (1889). The organ is from the known E.F. Falker company and was bought for the church in 1904.
Kärdla congregation gained its independence from Pühalepa church on July 1, 1926.
Paluküla church was established by the sons of the “Count of Unger” in 1820 and it was meant to be the family’s burial church, but the plan failed, because groundwater levels turned out to be unexpectedly high. As a supporting church for Kärdla the house of God was active until 1939. The builing had 100 seats. There was no pastorate or cemetery near the church, just a church in a grove near the road. In 1939 when Soviet military bases were established in Hiiumaa the church went to the Soviet army who used the builing as a warehouse and the tower as an observation post. Even after the Second World War the builing was not used as a house of God and serving as a warehouse it slowly fell apart, until in 1989 the tower was destroyed in a fire. The roof of the nave was restaured in 1994 and the helmet of the tower in 1996. During a century and a half the tower of the church also served as an official seamark.
The Ruins of Puski Orthodox Church
Now, in a triangle surrounded with roads there is Puski schoolhouse, the ruins of the orthodox church and surrounding it a quiet little cemetery, dreamy in the soft sounds of the pine forest.
Pühalepa church is the oldest preserved building in Hiiumaa.
When Hiiumaa was split between the German Order and Saare-Lääne bishop in 1254, Pühalepa became the center of the the Order´s premises in Hiiumaa. To support government, a center was founded for the Landmeister as early as the 13th century in Valipe, near the port. Pühalepa church was probably built around the same time as the center. It was a defense church.
In the beginning of the 1400s an open front hall was built in front of the western entrance. During a Russian forey originating from Haapsalu in 1575, the time of the Livonian war, the church was damaged badly. By miracle the rubble preserved the very famous Saint Anna altar, a hand-crafted wooden masterpieace from the year 1460 now conserved in the Estonian Museum of Art.
At around 1600 the destroed church was repaired. The year 1767, time of pastor Johann Chalenius, brought with it the beginning of a thorough reconstruction. In 1770 three storeys were added to the tower. First mentioning of a vestry room comes from the year 1805. The present appearence of the tower, the nave, the choir and the apse dates back to 1860. The church tower was grown another two storeys in 1874, when it gained an upper level and a neogothic deck helmet (total height 38,1 m).
During the years that followed the war, the church was used as a warehouse. It was again turned into a church in 1993.
In Pihla village there is the Reigi parish church. That, oficially named the
Church of Jesus, has in the past been called Pihla church as well. The present
church is the third for the local congregation. As is speculative the location
of the first church, so has its building date been lost in the merky waters of
history. It did exist in 1627 however – that has been verified by the visitation
documents of Johannes Rudbeckius, the visitator of Estonia, Livonia and Ingria.
The present 370-seater stone church was built under the orders of baron Otto Reinhold Ludwig von Ungern-Sternberg in 1800-1802 in memory of his son Gustav Dietrich Otto von Ungern-Strenberg (1773-1800). Exceptionally the rooster that usually marks the top of wind flags in Estonia has in this case been substituted for a lily that derives from the Ungern-Sternberg coat of arms.
The more interesting pieces of art in Reigi are 17th century paintings that have been painted on wood and were originally in the first church – “Püha õhtusöömaaeg” (“Holy Communion”), another “Püha õhtusöömaaeg”, “Kolgata” and “Risti mahavõtmine” (“Taking down the cross”). There is also a painting from the 19th century donated to the church by madame Ungern-Sternberg. It is called “Kristus Ketsemanni aias” (“Christ in the garden of Gethsemane”).