Executive chef and restaurateur Tõnis Siigur, wants to open a new restaurant in the ruins of Tartu Cathedral. However, the idea has proved divisive amongst the people of Tartu. Architect Andrus Kõresaar, the project's author, has confirmed that, the plans would not involve covering the cathedral, nor would it mean closing the walkways between the ruins.
Siigur, who manages and leads a group of 8 unique restaurants throughout Estonia, told ETV's "Ringvaat," that, for a long time, they have been looking for a place in southern Estonia where they could open a restaurant and events center to create a similar experience for guests.
"Finally, for some reason, we have arrived at Tartu Cathedral," said Siigur.
Speaking about the target market for the proposed restaurant, Siigur said, that the aim has always been to offer their services to anyone interested in culture, events and good food.
"So, we don't have a limited range. Yes, what we're doing is a very exclusive, very beautiful thing. It's up to the guests to choose for themselves."
Architect Andrus Kõresaar said, that entertainment in the form of high culture such as gastronomy, music, and art would certainly be suitable to take place in the cathedral.
"We can also see quite a few examples in modern Western culture, where a church or some ruins have been converted into a space for public events or even a restaurant," Kõresaar said.
However, he explained that, in this case, they have no plans to restore the entire cathedral or even touch the ruins.
"The restaurant we have planned, will remain an observer in a delicate situation, surrounded by the ruins. Our plan does not involve touching the ruins in any way, because the building will stay some distance from them," he added.
Kõresaar also said, that there are no plans to cover parts of the cathedral or close the walkways between the ruins.
"The walkways will remain open," he said. "After all, the planned building is intended to be multifunctional, so that in the future, during the day it will be possible to hold lectures or watch films there, or simply enjoy the ruins. The idea of a high-class restaurant only really works in the evening," Kõresaar explained.
Liisa Pakosta (Isamaa), director of the National Heritage Board, said a draft proposal for the project had been returned in order to seek clarifications. However, as far as she was aware, there were no particular obstacles preventing the completion of the project.
Earlier this month, Members of Estonia's branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) called plans to create a 100-seat restaurant inside the ruins of Tartu Cathedral "unacceptable".
Editor: Michael Cole