7. REIGI CHURCH


The settlement of Reigi was established in the 14th century. Swedish people were sent here to help guard against piracy of shipping passing Hiiumaa by local residents who sometimes weren't content to wait for a shipwreck to happen. They were given letters of guarantee by the Livonian Order which permitted them to move to this area without having to do forced labor for the local landlords. Originally, this area was a part of Käina parish but in 1627 the parish of Reigi was established and sevices were held in a small chapel near the sea. The first pastor was named Lempelius and his activities during the first years of the parish are documented in a book by the famous Finnish-Estonian writer Aino Kallas. Reigi parish and the pastor Lempelius have also been the subject of a film and a play. Reigi parish during the 1700's is the setting for an opera by Gustav Ernesaks.

In about 1690 a large wooden church was built to replace the little chapel by the sea. An inn was also established across the road and this inn survived until the early part of this century. Unfortunately, the church was not constructed so well and by the end of the 1700's it needed to be replaced. Help came from Count Ungern- Sternberg. He built the stone church that you see today in 1800-1802. He had the church built in memory of his son Gustav who killed himself because he was heavily in debt to gamblers. Gustav is buried in the churchyard at Reigi. On the top of the church steeple you can see a sculpture of a lily which was part of the coat-of-arms for the Ungern- Sternberg family. The church contains many beautiful works of art which are said to have been donated by the grateful survivors of shipwrecks near Hiiumaa's dangerous northwest coast. Some remodeling work was done in 1899 but the church still looks mostly as it did 200 years ago. The church is not open on a daily basis but it is still used for religious services so if you would like to get a look at the beautiful interior you are invited to attend a church service on Sunday.