The most spiritual sites in Estonia

Source: Jaak Nilson

The most spiritual sites in Estonia

Source: Jaak Nilson

Though religious influences have shifted throughout history, Estonians have always had a spiritual connection with their environment. Many natural and manmade holy sites attract visitors from around the world.

Sacred nature

For centuries before Christianity arrived in Estonia, an animistic understanding of nature was predominant among local tribes. Mythological folklore told stories of the spirits inhabiting the forests, seas and bogs. Many people followed indigenous, pagan religions which are still practiced in various forms today. In the old days, ancient natural landmarks like Taevaskoda sandstone outcroppings, Panga Cliff, Pühajärv (Holy Lake), Siniallika spring, Kaali meteorite craters and the 700 year old Tamme-Lauri oak tree were places of sacrifice and worship. These and many more hills, stones and groves are still regarded as sacred and whether you believe in their divinity or not, you are sure to be wowed by their organic beauty.

Serenity outside the city 

The ruins of the Pirita Convent are just a few kilometres away from downtown Tallinn.

Photo by: Jaak Nilson

Convents

All that remains of St. Bridget's Convent in Pirita, a Tallinn suburb, are stone ruins. Built in the early 15th century, the convent was once the largest nunnery in Old Livonia. The ruins play host to a number of concerts throughout the year, including the Birgitta Festival in August. In 2001 new, active convent was built beside the ruins housing eight nuns from around the world. The new convent has a chapel, library, guest house and conference rooms which are open to the public.

The Pühtitsa Dormition Convent in Kuremäe, East Estonia is the only functioning Russian Orthodox nunnery in Estonia. Established in 1891, it is situated by an ancient holy spring, claimed to have curative powers by the many people who flock there. Visitors can take a stroll around the convent courtyard or a guided tour with the resident nuns to see inside the churches.

Fairytale like grounds 

Take a dip in the healing spring next to the Pühtitsa Dormition Convent in  Kuremäe. 

Photo by: Jarek Jõepera

Pilgrimages

Vastseliina, a town in South Estonia, means "new city" and was home to an Episcopal castle erected in 1342. Now, just as the Pirita convent, only ruins remain of the original fortification and a modern museum has been constructed nearby. Vastseliina castle became famous in the 14th century for the white cross in its chapel which magically suspended itself, drawing pilgrims from across Old Livonia and Northern Europe. Today visitors come from across Estonia and from as far as South America. In 2012, the Pirita convent opened a pilgrimage route to Vastseliina cutting across Estonia from North to South with many sights and serene countryside along the way.

Jacob's route, or Jaakobitee, is part of the network of Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail towards Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage dates back to the early 9th century. Jacob's route starts in Tallinn, running south through Estonia towards Riga, Lativa. You don't have to be deeply religious to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside in summer. Walking along Jacob's route or the Pirita - Vastseliina route provides a time-out from the busy world.

Last updated : 18.08.2017

In category: South Estonia, History & Culture, Activities & Adventure, Nature & Wildlife

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