On Saturday evening, President Kersti Kaljulaid hosted a gala dinner at the Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa in honor of the visiting Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. On Sunday morning, the queen's visit concluded with a service at St. Mary's Cathedral in Tallinn, which, like the Danish flag celebrating its 800th anniversary on Saturday, dates back to the 13th century.
Prior to the gala dinner, Queen Margrethe II, Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), were the guests of honor at "Estonia 100 and Dannebrog 800," a gala concert dedicated to the Estonian and Danish flags at Estonia Concert Hall.
Archbishop Viilma: Estonian, Danish histories intertwined
In his sermon at Sunday's service, Archbishop Urmas Viilma, head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK), said that the story of the Danish flag, known as the Dannebrog, is at once Denmark and Estonia's story — that the two countries' histories have been intertwined into one, shared cultural history in which Estonia has become part of Denmark's history and Denmark part of Estonia's.
"The oldest cross flag in the world was brought to St. Mary's Cathedral today — the Dannebrog," Viilma said. "The flag that rose up on the battlefield 800 years ago marked a victory for the conquerors — the Danes — and a loss for the indigenous peoples — the Estonians — in a battle fought in the Crusades. This is a simplified version that supports the demarcation of borders and choosing of sides. In today's already polarized world, however, we need to look for other points of view."
According to Viilma, what needs to be sought is that which brings people together, and which reconciles.
"I find a lot of that which connects and reconciles in the Dannebrog," he continued. "If we did not speak in Estonian anymore or celebrate our 100-year-old Republic of Estonia and our dear 135-year-old blue, black and white tricolor, we could continue to view the events of 800 years ago as dividing — we would have to choose sides. Today, however, we have enough self-confidence as a free people to evaluate the events of hundreds of years with an objective positivity."
Centuries of life under the rule of various crowns has meant layers and the legacy of various cultures for Estonia, which together form a very rich and multifaceted Estonian culture of its own, the archbishop highlighted.
"The period of Estonian history to begin with Danish King Valdemar II marks the beginning of Tallinn's urban culture, and allows us to celebrate the double or parallel jubilee of the 800th annniversary of the first [historical] mention of the Danish Town [taani linn] —Tallinn — and the Danish flag — the Dannebrog," he said.
Danish fingerprints visible today
Viilma went on to cite other important Danish ties to and influences on Tallinn and Estonia, including the lesser coat of arms of Tallinn, the coat of arms of Harju County, which are based on the Dannebrog, and, historically, the coat of arms of the Estonian Knighthood, including three lions, which became the basis for Estonia's modern coat of arms. He also highlighted the contributions of Danish volunteers who fought in support of Estonia in the latter's War of Independence.
"The story of the Dannebrog is at once Denmark and Estonia's story," he said. "Our histories have been intertwined into one, shared cultural history — Estonia has become part of Denmark's history and Denmark part of Estonia's history. Yes, the Dannebrog in time became Denmark's national flag. But the message sent from the heavens on this day 800 years ago did not confirm the victory of one people over another in the Battle of Lyndanisse, but rather spoke to the benedictory impact of the mark of the cross on the entire world."
The mark of the cross, Viilma said, indicated a victory for Valdemar II 800 years ago, but by now it has become a victory for the Estonian people as well, who just over a century ago reached the maturity to declare independence.
"Today, an independent Estonia is equal among other states, including Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany and Russia," he concluded, referring to various powers that had ruled over the region over the past millennium.
According to legend, a red flag bearing a white cross fell from the heavens during the Battle of Lyndanisse (Lindanise) on June 15, 1219. The site of the battlefield is known today as the Danish King's Garden and is located on the slope of Toompea Hill. The Danish flag, known as the Dannebrog, is the oldest national flag in the world.
Estonia's blue, black and white flag was consecrated in Otepää as the flag of the Estonian Students' Society (EÜS) on June 4, 1884. The original flag, which remains the property of the fraternity, is currently on permanent display at the Estonian National Museum (ERM) in Tartu. It is the oldest preserved original national flag in the world.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark visited Tallinn this weekend to take part in celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the Danish flag, the 135th anniversary of the Estonian flag, Estonia's centennial as well as Estonian-Danish relations.
Editor: Aili Vahtla