Minister of the Interior: Narva cathedral to remain in public use ({{commentsTotal}})

Estonian Independence Day celebration at the renovated St. Alexander's Cathedral in Narva. February 24, 2009.
Estonian Independence Day celebration at the renovated St. Alexander's Cathedral in Narva. February 24, 2009. Source: (Raigo Pajula/Postimees/Scanpix)

On May 8, Archbishop Urmas Viilma, the head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) announced that he and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas had reached an agreement that the Church and the Estonian state would each chip in half of the cost of buying St. Alexander's Cathedral in Narva out of bankruptcy. On Tuesday, the Estonian Minister of the Interior confirmed the state’s intentions to help buy the building.

Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur met with Archbishop Viilma on Tuesday, and according to ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera,” both sides confirmed the plan for the state and the EELK to each cover half the cost of buying the Narva cathedral.

The Estonian Government will still need to sign off on the purchase, however if all goes according to plan, this will be an item on the agenda next Thursday.

According to Pevkur, it is not yet possible to say what the building’s final purchase price will be, and admitted that a number of other details involving the purchase were as of yet unconfirmed. The minister did confirm, however, that the cathedral would remain in public use.

He noted that the exact model of the building’s future legal ownership remained unclear. “Whether it will be a foundation, or a state-owned company, for example [state realty firm Riigi Kinnisvara AS], the Eesti Kontsert Foundation or someone else — this is not something we have currently discussed; this is a topic for future debate,” explained Pevkur. “The main priority right now has been to guarantee that the cathedral remains in public use.”

Viru County Court declared the St. Alexander’s congregation of Narva bankrupt in April 2015 due to the small congregation’s inability to meet financial obligations taken on in connection with the renovations of the cathedral building. The bankruptcy petition was filed by construction company AS Eviko; the congregation’s debt at the time allegedly amounted to more than 2.1 million euros.

The state spent more than 2 million euros to help restore the Lutheran cathedral, one million of which was provided via a regional competitive program of the Enterprise Estonia foundation.

In April of this year, the Estonian archbishop announced a fundraising campaign to support the bankrupt St. Alexander’s congregation of Narva and buy out the cathedral, as it was put up for auction with the starting price set at 500,000 euros by creditors who had seized building after the congregation declared bankruptcy.

The auction for the cathedral was called off altogether in early May, however, after the cancellation had been requested by several parties, including the Ministry of the Interior.

Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik

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