Niguliste kirik elevator provides unprecedented views of Tallinn Old Town

The newly-opened Niguliste elevator, viewing platform and other restoration work.
The newly-opened Niguliste elevator, viewing platform and other restoration work. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A brand new attraction has been added to the list of long-time crowd pleasers at the Niguliste Museum in Tallinn, alongside Rode's Altarpiece and Notke's "Danse Macabre." A great glass elevator in the church tower now takes visitors to new exhibits and offers unprecedented views of medieval Tallinn. On Saturday, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera nädal" visited the reopened church to see what all the fuss was about.

The glass elevator is the most eye-catching part of the newly renovated Niguliste kirik (St. Nicholas' Church) in Tallinn. While at 50-meters above ground, the church's new viewing platform does not provide the highest spot from which to admire Tallinn (The Town Hall tower is 64 meters high and St. Olaf's (Oleviste) is 124 meters), it can be accessed by elevator and offers a panoramic vision that had previously been impossible to behold.

"The lift was the catalyst from which other questions began to form. The entire church building itself, the heritage of the church, our own heritage, and not to mention the technological issues," explained Sirje Helme, director general of Eesti Kunstimuuseum (Art Museum of Estonia).

One of the most impressive features of the new great glass elevator is the fireproof curtain, which was custom-made in the U.K. The curtain is held in place by a motor at the top of the tower. In the event of a fire, when the electricity is switched off, the motor stops and the curtain, on account of its own weight, descends 16 meters from the tower and rests on the floor of the chapel roof. The low pressure, then causes the smoke to escape from the church through the sock formed by the curtain. When the electricity is switched back on again, the motor pulls the curtain back up. It is to be hoped that the visitors to the church will never have to see the curtain.

"No expense has been spared, because it's all one system. If we don't put a sensor in or we don't have enough water, and then something happens, then emergency services won't give us a permit," Helme said.

The renovation of Niguliste kirik. took five years in total, including a year of construction.

Originally, there were balconies in the church for the congregation. However, these have long been destroyed. A second floor has now been built above the balconies to house a display of medieval wooden sculptures.

"It is portrayed as a tree of life. These living green leaves are also a reference to the tree of paradise. Holding the cross are the symbols of the four evangelists. The Art Museum of Estonia's medieval art collection dates back to the 1920s, however, the more exciting smaller works arrived earlier," said Merike Kurisoo, curator at Eesti Kunstimuuseum (Art Museum of Estonia).

"This collection was started  during the Estonian War of Independence. There were two art protection rescue committees in Estonia - the South-Estonian and the North-Estonian art collectors," Kurisoo added.

Many of the larger exhibits were evacuated and hidden in various locations preventing them from being destroyed by Soviet bombing during World War Two.

However, none of the church's five bells survived, and the tower now provides something of a refuge for homeless church bells.

"Niguliste has always been a church without a bell. When the opportunity arose to open the tower to the public, there were a good number of these "homeless bells" hanging  around in museum or private collections. So, we put a small selection of them on display here," says Tarmo Saaret, director of the Niguliste Museum.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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