Niguliste Church faces delayed opening due to technical problems

Artist's rendering of the planned renovation at the Niguliste kirik in Tallinn.
Artist's rendering of the planned renovation at the Niguliste kirik in Tallinn. Source: Niguliste muuseum.

The renovation of Niguliste Kirik (St Nicholas' Church) in Tallinn, which began a year ago, was scheduled to be complete this Friday. However, with the church's new lift still missing some parts due to delivery problems, the Niguliste Museum does not yet have the permit it needs to open.

Nevertheless, the Art Museum of Estonia does not rule out the possibility of the church being opened to the public this Saturday.

Niguliste Kirik was given a permit to open from March 2 by the Tallinn City Planning Department and the Estonian Rescue Board had also indicated its approval. However, the permit did not apply to the entire building, meaning visitors are currently only able to enter the church's main hall, Tarmo Saaret, director of the Niguliste Museum, told ERR.

The part of the church tower, where a lift has now been installed and which was previously off limits to visitors, has not yet received a permit to allow visitors. According to Saaret, the problems are technical and there is nothing the museum staff can do to fix them.

"The lift is still missing some parts because there were problems with the delivery. We are waiting for these parts to arrive," he said.

A grand re-opening event for press and staff was set to take place this Friday, with the church due to be open to the general public on Saturday. However, with time running out, on Wednesday, Saaret was unable to say by how long that may all be delayed. "We'll be wiser tomorrow," he said.

However, the Art Museum of Estonia clarified, that no decision to postpone the opening had been taken and that the opening event on Friday would definitely take place. Whether the church will also be open to visitors on Saturday should be known by Thursday at the latest.

The renovation of the church began in February last year. Sirje Helme, head of Art Museum of Estonia, told Vikerradio that the inclusion of a lift in the church building had first been discussed in 2019, with permission from the Heritage Protection Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) obtained a year later.  

"Initially, the idea was to build the lift from the organ floor. The revolutionary idea was that the lift would come out to the floor and so could be used by people in wheelchairs. That was the argument put to the Heritage Protection Board, because we were talking so much about accessibility and equal opportunities for all. I think it was the right decision," said Helme.

The lift shaft was completed in June last year. According to Helme, the lift will go all the way up to the large windows at the top od the church, overlooking Tallinn Old Town and providing a sea view. Once the renovation is complete, visitors will be able to access areas, which were previously closed off to the public, with the lift stopping on three of the church's floors.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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