• Reet Pius



Pulpit Altar, Church Construction, Lutheranism, Pietism, Rationalism, Second Half of the 18th Century


The article focuses on a phenomenon that is related to architecture and art history in Estonia in the late 18th century – the pulpit-altar. In Estonia and Livonia, the construction of pulpit-altars was associated with the building of new stone churches. Although, due to the scarcity of sources, it is not possible to get a total overview of the spread of the pulpit-altars, the architectonic portico-style pulpit-altars are most prevalent in Livonia and primarily associated with the work of Carl Gottlieb and Christoph Haberland, two masters who were active in Riga. The portico-style pulpit-altars combined the functionality of the church plans designed by L. Chr. Sturm, a German educator and architect, and the aesthetics of “good architecture” promoted by architectural theoretician Marc-Antoine Laugier.

In Estonia and Livonia, which had come under the rule of Tsarist Russia, Swedish church law remained in efect until 1832, although along with orthodox Lutheranism, Pietism, Herrnhutism and Rationalism were tolerated here. The goal of the Pietists, Herrnhutists and Rationalists was to improve the economic and social conditions in Estonia and, in one way or another, they were all enlighteners. Church construction may also have been infuenced by the educational background of the pastors, as well as the religious and aesthetic preferences of the church authorities. It is difcult to determine the dominance of one or another theological movement. The rural church buildings of the Age of Enlightenment were meeting rooms that were open to people of any social status or Lutheran sect. The pulpit-altars in the churches in Karksi, Räpina and Valga are cov- ered in the article.


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Author Biography

Reet Pius

Reet Pius is PhD candidate at the University of Tartu, Graduated from the University of Tartu and the Central European University. Worked at the KANUT Conservation Centre as an art historian and at the Art Museum of Estonia as a research secretary, and also curated exhibitions at the Art Museum of Estonia. Co-author of the exploratory survey, Eesti kunsti ajalugu 2, 1520 -1770, 2005 (The History of Estonian Art 1520-1770). Current research topic is “The Lutheran Church and ecclesiastic art in Estonia during the Age of Enlightenment.” e-mail: