Archbishop proposes Virgin Mary statue for Maarjamäe memorial

Part of the Maarjamäe memorial in Tallinn.
Part of the Maarjamäe memorial in Tallinn. Source: ERR

Head of the Estonian Council of Churches (Eesti Kirikute Nõukogu) Archbishop Emeritus Andres Põder proposed Maarjamäe memorial in Tallinn, the subject of recent controversy, be given a new meaning, by erecting a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Archbishop Põder, a Lutheran, has written to governmental ministers, saying that since eight centuries have passed since the areas of Old Livonian Estonia and Latvia were officially named Terra Mariana ("Land of Mary"), the memorial at Maarjamäe could be connected to the Virgin Mary.

The letter was sent to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE), Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), Minister of the Environment Rene Kokk (EKRE) and Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center).

Põder wrote: "The personhood of Mary is ambiguous, giving us an opportunity to point to motherly love, patience, care and trust. A memorial to her would supplement the Memorial to the Victims of Communism well."

He added that the figure of Mary could also be suitable for people of different nationalities, connecting different religions and historical viewpoints.

The Archbishop Emeritus noted: "Technically the memorial could be supplemented with a statue of Mary or added to the obelisk somehow, rewording the concept of the memorial as one of care and love, while making the necessary reconstructions."

The Virgin Mary is somewhat of a figure of veneration in some traditions within the Lutheran Church, as well as more famously in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

Tallinn itself was not a part of historical Livonia, though the Terra Mariana name has been given to a high-level state decoration.

The memorial at Maarjamäe has come up in public debate lately, as it has been deemed dangerous and presenting a public hazard as becomes more and more dilapidated.

Interior minister Mart Helme said on Monday that the memorial, along with Linnahall, should be demolished. Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart responded, saying the city would never agree to demolish the World War Two related memorial at Maarjamäe, Tallinn.

The Maarjamäe memorial was unveiled in 1975, and is distinct from the nearby Memorial to the Victims of Communism opened in 2018. Proposals to restore the Soviet-era Maarjamäe memorial have been met with opposition from some quarters of the government, including Helme, on the grounds that taxpayers' money should not be used to refurbish what is for many a controversial monument.

Obelisk at the Maarjamäe memorial. Source: Urmet Kook/ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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