sights / Architecture

Lonely Planet review

Estonia's oldest church, Dome Church (Toomkirik) was founded in the early 13th century by the earliest Danish conquerors of the region. It stands on Toompea hill which, with its fine views over the town and harbour, became the birthplace of Tallinn when the German Knights of the Sword built a fortress here around 1230.

Incidentally, the hill is also sacred to native Estonians, who consider it the legendary burial mound of Kalev, the heroic first leader of the Estonians. Although the site of the church was first consecrated in 1240, the edifice of this magnificent Lutheran cathedral church dates from the 15th and 17th centuries, with the tower added in 1779.

Among other things, the church was a burial ground for the rich and noble. The finest of the carved tombs inside are those on the right as you approach the altar, including life-size figures of the 16th- century Swedish commander, Pontus de la Gardie, and his wife. The Swedish siege of Narva, where de la Gardie died, is shown on the side of their sarcophagus. The marble Greek temple-style sarcophagus belongs to Admiral Samuel Greigh, an 18th-century Scot who joined the Russian navy and became a hero of Russo-Turkish sea battles. Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern, a German Estonian who was the first Russian citizen to sail around the world, has another elaborate tomb.