Stone stronghold and fortified church

The stone stronghold and fortified church were common phenomena in Estonian landscape in the 13th century. In order to keep a tight rein on local people, the German and Scandinavian conquerors had to fortify their military footholds and administrative centres; some invaded land was given to monasteries as well. Strongholds and churches served as strategic points, and within their walls the new masters found refuge from the foreign enemy and support in subjugating locals. In most cases, the existing Estonian strongholds were used as a basis for construction. The alien royal and feudal powers also brought along new building materials and construction styles; the crusaders’ fortified buildings were founded according to the previously exploited types. People started to use lime mortar and vault construction. This was the time when Estonia became a landmark between East and West, a border between two worlds. After the Livonian War (1558–1583), most of the destroyed strongholds were no longer restored.

From an ideological point of view, rapid building of parish and town churches in the newly invaded land was inevitable. Temporary wooden churches were soon replaced by monumental stone churches. Many rural churches were fortified; during invasions they could easily accommodate quite a large crowd. These are mostly one- or three-nave churches with humble proportions and massive walls that are fascinating with their simple, somewhat rough beauty. In cities, sacral architecture was far more demanding from the start; the Tallinn and Tartu churches are unique for their high Gothic stone décor. Town churches took a long time to build: new master builders came along, architectural requirements changed, and the damage from fires was frequently quite extensive.

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