Toompea Castle

Toompea Castle is a castle on Toompea hill, in the central part of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The castle, an ancient stronghold site in use since at least the 9th century. Today Toompea Castle houses the Parliament of Estonia.

According to a myth, the whole hill of Toompea was made by Linda, who built it boulder-by-boulder with her own hands. For reasons associated with this legend, Tallinn is sometimes traditionally referred to as Lyndanisse (“The nipple of Linda”) in Estonian. The more prosaic truth is that settlers during the time of ancient Estonia made use of the natural hill as an easily defended stronghold. Over time, the place also developed into a commercial hub. It was probably one of the first inhabited areas of what later became Tallinn.

Toompea Castle

In 1219, the castle was taken over by Danish crusaders led by Valdemar II. According to a popular Danish legend, the very first flag of Denmark fell from the sky during a critical stage of the Battle of Lyndanisse. This first proper castle was referred to as the “Castle of the Danes”, in Latin Castrum Danorum and in Estonian Taanilinnus. I is assumed that from the latter, the modern city name of Tallinn is derived.

In 1227, the castle was taken over by the Order of the Brethren of the Sword, who initiated rebuilding schemes. The castle they started building is to a large extent the castle that is visible today. The castle again fell to the Danes ten years later, but was sold to the Teutonic Order in 1346, and would remain in their hands for the remainder of the Middle Ages.

As the crusading Teutonic Order was a religious order, the castle came to resemble a monastery in several ways. It included a chapel, a chapter house and a dormitory for the knights. The order was also responsible for erecting the still visible towers of the church, including “Pilsticker”, “Stür den Kerl”, “Landskrone” and the probably most famous, “Pikk Hermann”. Also referred to as Tall Hermann, the tower stands 48 meters and dominates the castle skyline. The flag of Estonia is hoisted at the top of the tower every day at sunrise, to the sound of the national anthem, and lowered at sunset.

With the upheavals of the Livonian War during the 16th century, the crusader orders formerly dominating the present day Baltic states were dissolved and the region became contested by Sweden, Poland and Russia. By 1561, northern Estonia had become a Swedish dominion. The Swedes transformed the castle from a crusader fortress into a ceremonial and administrative centre of political power in Estonia, a purpose the castle has served ever since.

In 1710, Sweden lost the territory of modern day Estonia to the Russian Empire. The Russian administration eventually carried out large reconstruction schemes and turned the castle definitively into a palace. A new dominating wing in Baroque and Neoclassical style was designed by Johann Schultz. This addition was added in the eastern part of the castle complex. It housed the administration of the Governorate and the living quarters of the governor. During the czarist era, a public park was also laid out to the south-east of the castle, and an archive building erected nearby.

The assembly hall of the Parliament of Estonia is the only expressionist parliament assembly hall in the world… Following the Estonian Declaration of Independence in 1918, a building to house the parliament of the republic was erected at the site of the former convent building of the Teutonic Order. Taking two years to complete, it was finished in 1922, and designed by architects Eugen Habermann and Herbert Johanson. Although its exterior is traditionalist, the interior is Expressionist in style, in fact the world’s only Expressionist parliament building. During the subsequent periods of Soviet, German, and a second Soviet occupation the Riigikogu was disbanded. The castle and the building of the Riigikogu were however used by the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR during the second Soviet occupation.

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Vagabond Travel came into being April 16, 2014 when I departed Canada heading for Mexico City. I have no destination in mind, nor an itinerary to follow. This is a sort of website, journal and travel blog all rolled into one. That's about it.

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