Useful information
LIGHTHOUSE TOUR book
1. Contract stones and Otimäe stone burial place
2. Pühalepa church
3. Suuremõisa castle
4. Suursadam
5. Soera Farm Museum
6. Kärdla
7. Hill of Crosses
8. Tahkuna lighthouse
9. Reigi church
10. Kõrgessaare-Viskoosa
11. Kõpu lighthouse
12. Vanajõe Valley
13. Sõru harbour
14. Orjaku bird observation tower
15. Exhibits building of Hiiumaa museum in Kassari
16. Sääretirp
17. Kassari chapel and graveyard
18. Vaemla wool factory
 
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Supported by European Union
 
 

KÕPU LIGHTHOUSE

You can reach the Kärdla - Kõpu road by passing through the little town, so you don't need to double back. On the way to Kõpu lighthouse you can stop in the very small village of Luidja, where there is a wonderful sandy beach. There, choose an old, curvy, unpaved road, or follow the sign towards Emmaste, which turns into a new, straight, paved road to Kõpu after 3 km. After turning to the right, take the road on the left going up the hill.

Photo: Tiit Leito
Photo: Tiit Leito / www.fotokogu.com

Age-old Kõpu Lighthouse is standing on top of the hill like a buxom woman with a red braid and a sparkling eye. Six thousand tons of stones and a height of 36 meters speak for themselves.

The story of the lighthouse started more than 500 years ago, when the Hanseatic Merchants League needed an effective seamark, as the merchants complained that ships were getting lost in the Baltic Sea. It is no wonder then, that the Council of the City of Tallinn bargained permission to construct the seamark from the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek. The location was set down to the range of Andrusemäe hill and the final agreement of construction works was concluded in 1500. Nowadays that highest hill in Hiiumaa is called Tornimägi (Tower Hill, 68 m). But the islanders who earned their everyday living as wreckers were not as interested in the seamark as they were worried about the bounty from the sea diminishing.

Construction works started around 1504. Locals caused trouble as they did not want to show up to work without payment in advance. Wars, plague and famine also slowed construction progress. The most active construction era was 1514-1519, when among other workers about 15 stonemasons moved around in the construction site. In 1531 the initial look of the solid lighthouse was more or less completed, but new negotiations to make the seamark higher started almost at the same time. In return for construction permits, bishops bargained for favourable salt rates or tributes in wine. Tallinn City Council had to make compromises many times.

Historical documents give reason to presume, that Kõpu seamark became a real lighthouse only in 1649, when a wooden staircase was built to the outside wall of the construction, and the grate for burning coal and wood was hoisted to the top. About 800-1000 cords of firewood were consumed per year. A rule dating from 1652 decreed that the fire be strong and a fathom high and the watchman not asleep. Still, rain and stormy weather extinguished the fire quite often. In 1659 the lighthouse was given to private property and from then on it was managed by the De la Gardies, Stenbocks, and Ungern-Sternbergs one after another - all well-known and active men in the history of Hiiumaa. In the 1660s an iron staircase replaced the wooden one. Larger scale reconstruction works started in 1810, when the building was transferred to the Russian Crown. At that time a staircase was cut inside the lighthouse; it has been used ever since. In 1845, a crack in the upper part of the lighthouse demanded more extensive reconstructions, during which the lighthouse gained its final height. Oil lamps and a system of mirrors replaced the open fire presently, and a lamp room employing prisms was purchased at the 1900 World Fair in Paris. At the beginning of the 20th century, acetylene gas was still used for lighting and only in 1963 did the electrical automatic system replace it. At the end of the 1980s, the lighthouse started to deteriorate quite rapidly (presumably caused by the usage of an inappropriate exterior colour). It was decided that the “corpulent matron” should be fitted with an approximately 10-15 cm thick reinforced concrete dress. Kõpu, the third oldest continually operating lighthouse in the world, still looks youthful and beautiful. Ristna lighthouse is equipped with modern radio transmitters today, but Kõpu plays an important role in holding the traditions and looks magnificent for its old age, and it is the only lighthouse that offers a beautiful view from its platform.

 
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