Pirita, a city district in Tallinn, is mostly known for its beach, sleepy yachts in the marina and posh suburban houses. But another gem, that you can see on your way to the beach are the ruins of the old Pirita Convent, an ancient monastery in the middle of suburbs.
Today, a large stone giant without a roof, dates back to the year 1407, when the largest nunnery in the Old Livonia was built on the banks of the Pirita. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Bridget and is officially called Bridgettine Convent.
Over time, the new church got a lot of attention, and many pilgrims wanted to go there in the Middle Ages. Since Saint Bridget had an aim to reform the Christian people, they wanted the church to be accessible to everyone, so on big holidays, the mass was held in German, Estonian and Swedish. And that brought a lot of crowds there from all layers of society - masters, knights and noblemen and even fishermen and farmers. All of them came to ask for God’s blessings, and all were welcome there. The monastery and church flourished as a religious center.
But the golden times of Pirita Monastery didn’t last long. It was devastated by the wars in the 16th century by the Swedish and Russian raids, and in 1577, the forces of Ivan the Terrible destroyed it for good. When the monastery was demolished, the nuns left, and it was left in ruins, until the last century, when several extensive excavation and conservation projects took place. The monastery was not restored in full, but a façade, cellars and a graveyard that survived the destructions were dug out and restored to their original form.
Now, the monastery is taken care of by nuns who live nearby and is open to visitors all year round. You can walk around the cemetery and ruins and imagine how life used to be in this huge religious center in Old Livonia. In the summer, there are a lot of concerts held in ruins, making it a special and magical musical experience. Even the pilgrims have found their way back – the historic pilgrim road from Pirita Monastery leads almost 300 kilometers to southern Estonia, and it has become more and more popular for those who want to hike, clear their thoughts and see Estonian history, culture and nature. In 1969, an iconic Estonian film “Last relic” (“Viimne reliikvia”), that is considered one of the best movies in our history, was filmed here. It speaks of the monastery and is worth watching before visiting it.
Pirita Convent, an ancient monastery in the suburbs of Tallinn, might feel out of place at first glance (by the beach and yacht marina), but the roofless giant is definitely worth exploring.
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