Die Kirche zu Urbs/Urvaste und die Frage der Rigenser Bauschule im 13. Jahrhundert


  • Kaur Alttoa




Kaur Alttoa: Urvaste Church and the Question of the Riga
School of Construction in the 13th Century
Keywords: Urvaste Church, medieval ecc lesiastical architecture
in Estonia, thirteenth century Riga School of Construction, patronage rights, pilgrimage churches

Although Urvaste Church is the only basilica parish church in Estonia it has received little to no attention in the literature of architecture. In most cases it has been considered an instance of the reputedly coherent thirteenth century school of construction of Riga that among others includes St Jacob’s Church in Riga, St Nicholas Church in Pärnu, and Church of Saint Bartholomew in Rujiena. Based on this assumption, it is often claimed that Urvaste Church was built in entirety during the thirteenth century.
In Urvaste Church, an exceptional construction method is seen: below the roof of the aisles there are abutments that support the walls of the nave. In the diocese of Tartu, the same construction type is found in two more cases: it is used in the Tartu Dome Church, and in St John’s Church, Tartu. Based on these  buildings, it is reasonable to believe that the central nave of Urvaste basilica Church is not built before the last third of the fourteenth century. In addition, St Jacob’s Church in Riga, St
Nicholas Church in Pärnu, and Church of Saint Bartholomew in Rujiena attained basilica form in the course of later  reconstruction work and therefore the hypothesis about a homogeneous thirteenth century school of construction in Riga is incorrect. It is argued that it may be the case that the basilica plan of Urvaste Church expresses the aspirations for a certain kind of representation by the church patrons of the high nobility.
Kaur Alttoa is a long-time scholar and teacher of art history at the University of Tartu as well as one of the foremost specialists of the history of medieval architecture in the Baltic region. His objects of interest have included both medieval fortresses and sacral buildings. Among his major contributions stands out the restoration and study of the St. John’s Church in Tartu, which was also published as a monograph in 2011.


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