Government decision ensures St. Nicholas' to remain museum, concert hall

St. Nicholas' Church in Tallinn.
St. Nicholas' Church in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Estonian government and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) reached an agreement according to which St. Nicholas' Church in Tallinn will remain a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia and a concert hall.

According to a government decision, the EELK will be allocated €6.8 million from the 2018 state budget. The EELK in turn retracted its claim to St. Nicholas' Church and the property belonging to the congregation thereof, the Ministry of Culture said in a press release on Friday.

The agreement now reached between the state and the church indicates the end of a lengthy dispute regarding the ownership of the church, and that the researching of cultural objects and exhibition of prized works of art will continue at the historical church.

"The lengthy dispute over ownership relations no doubt caused the Art Museum of Estonia a great deal of uncertainty," said Minister of Culture Indrek Saar (SDE). "Now it is clear that the building will remain a branch of the art museum, which is the best possible solution for the exhibiting of priceless works of art at St. Nicholas'."

The minister added that this decision was certain to please fans of culture both at home and abroad, as St. Nicholas' has been not just a well-loved venue for art, but for concerts as well, due to its acoustics and atmosphere.

Located in St. Nicholas' Church in Tallinn's medieval Old Town, Niguliste Museum is one of few museums in Europe in which ecclesiastical art is exhibited in a converted house of worship. It houses the Art Museum of Estonia's collection of medieval ecclesiastical art, the country's most valuable and internationally most significant art collection.

The works at St. Nicholas' Church include examples of the art museum's most valuable ecclesiastical art, including Hermen Rode's High Altar of St Nicholas' Church, Bernt Notke's "Danse Macabre," and Adrian Isenbrandt's altar of Christ's Passion.

"Following a lengthy period of confusion during which the museum still nonetheless gave its best, we can now continue our activities with greater certainty," said Art Museum of Estonia Foundation (EKM) board member Sirje Helme, adding that the museum can now do an even better job storing and promoting ecclesiastical art. "Our goal is to maintain St. Nicholas' as Estonia's centre for ecclesiastical art. The art museum definitely wants to continue cooperation with the church as well, and we promise that this priceless legacy is in good hands."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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