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 / 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Historical documents give reason to presume, that Kõpu seamark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.