Why Is There a Trefoil Motif From Karja Church in Pikk Street in Tallinn? Based on the Example of the Restoration of the In-Situ Gothic Portal in Pikk Street 7, How Medieval Is the Medieval Architecture of Tallinn Old Town?


  • Risto Paju




Although Tallinn is known for its authentic medieval architecture,
the closer to details we delve, to view the medieval buildings from
the perspective of particulars, or the history of things, following the
method of its apologist Ivan Gaskell, and take one concrete artefact as
a starting point and basis, the more variegated the picture becomes.
The portal of the medieval building in Pikk Street 7 contains some
of the more interesting restoration questions. This article here looks at
the story of the restoration of a Gothic portal of a medieval residence
in Tallinn. When we stand on Pikk Street today and take a cursory
look at the portal of the house number 7, with the masonry windows
on either side of it, it may seem that this medieval portal ensemble

has survived as well as the one in Vene 17 in Tallinn. However, the
portal of Pikk 7 has been chosen as the subject of this article because it
contains one of the most interesting and well-documented restoration
stories of a medieval Gothic portal in Tallinn Old Town. How did it
happen that these two leave a similar impression?
The article submits that the residence at Pikk 7 is indeed partially
part of the medieval stonemasonry tradition of Tallinn, but certainly
to a lesser extent than the portal of Vene 17, which has survived in its
original shape and place and has not been demolished and restored.
The perspective portal of Pikk 7 is medieval to the same extent as
it is from the 20th century and adds to the restoration history of
Tallinn as much as to the studies of the medieval architecture of
Tallinn. The Middle Ages have been the main target era and Gothic
the main target style of the restoration of the building at Pikk 7 – the
end results have been aimed at the dominance of those. However, it
was decided not to restore the high gable with the blind niches that
characterise the medieval residences of Tallinn.
To conclude, a fitting thought from Juhan Maiste, ‘Every single
thing has a double meaning which tells us of the people to whom
those things once used to belong, but also of those who have cleaned
and restored them, brought them, whether in their natural form or
as a verbal text, back into the light.’ (Juhan Maiste, “Arvustus: Tagasi asjade juurde. Raimo Pullat. Tallinlase asjademaailm
valgustussajandil”, Akadeemia, 9 (2017), 1694.)
The article is based on official restoration documentation,
restoration critique in the press, and personal work memoirs of
restorer Aarne Joonsaar.


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Author Biography

Risto Paju

Risto Paju is a curator and keeper of the Collection of Ashlars at the
Tallinn City Museum. His research is focused on the exhibits in the
Collection of Ashlars in the City Museum, based on which he has
published articles and organised exhibitions. Of the latter, the most
important is the permanent exposition in the Carved Stone Museum,
which he curated in 2016. Paju has also researched the inventory lists
of the 18th century citizenry of Tallinn.