Tartu Ülikooli usuteaduskonna ristiusu arheoloogia kabinet 1921-1940. The Cabinet of Christian Archaeology of the University of Tartu Department of Theology 1921-1940


  • Aile Tammiste




The Cabinet (Museum) of Christian Archaeology, a study cabinet, existed at the University of Tartu Department of Theology Chair of Historical Theology from 1921 to 1940. It emerged from the Collection of Biblical and Christian Articles established in the 1870s. From 1921 to 1940 the Cabinet was led by Olaf Sild, Professor of the Chair of Historical Theology. Siegfried Aaslava, Kristjan Valdmann, Villem Uuspuu worked as assistants in the Cabinet during this period.

Until 1926 the Cabinet was situated in the hall of the Theological Seminary on the 3rd floor of the University main building. In 1926 three rooms were obtained in the building at Lai Street 36.

The Cabinet of Christian Archaeology had its own library and compiled collections of old articles from churches and historical sources. The inventory of the Cabinet (models, pictures, manuscripts, photos, photocopies, stereotypes, gravestones, baptismal bowls etc.) was used for illustrating lectures. Practical courses about church history, Christian archaeology, historical Christian art, palaeography, etc. were held. Students received training about registering church monuments and their scientific handling. Archaeological excavations were performed.

Students compiled reports and wrote research papers about Estonian church history. The archival materials of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Consistory deposited in the Central State Archive were used as sources. Data about visitation protocols and church chronicles found in parishes were collected.

Sild, the Director of the Cabinet, wanted to make a list of all Estonian parochial church archives. His further aim was to collect data about the church history of the whole area of Estonia.

During the years 1926–1940 the Cabinet registered church monuments together with the members of the Academic Society of Theologians. Altogether over 30 papers about different Estonian churches were written. Certain instructions were followed for registration. The papers were composed on the basis of corresponding questionnaires. The church archive and inventory lists were checked in the course of registration. The details of exterior and interior design, building materials, time of construction and other important data about church buildings were recorded. Drawings, copies and photos were made. Especial attention was given to the inscriptions on churches, chapels, monuments, gravestones—these were copied. The types of crosses were recorded in the form of drawings.

The orientation of churches and chapels in relation to cardinal points was measured.

Collecting old church articles to the museum established by Professor Sild, researching and registering church monuments included heritage protection work. Thereby, the cultural value of these articles and buildings was more widely introduced.

The Christian Archaeology Cabinet was closed on 31 August 1940 in connection to the liquidation of the Faculty of Theology. The collections of the Cabinet had to be handed over to other institutions of the University.

Most of the belongings of the Cabinet of Christian Archaeology were destroyed in the course of the war in 1944. Some materials that were preserved can be found in the Estonian Historical Archives, University of Tartu Library, University of Tartu Art Museum, University of Tartu Museum.


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