Gothic Portals & Gables of Tallinn

Part Two: Portals and Gables of Public Buildings


7. Town Hall

Raekoja plats 1

The original portal of the town hall of Tallinn is located on a three-step podium next to the ground-floor arcade on the western part of the façade. Its design follows that of the south-west portal of the Cathedral of Saint Mary, and as such it played an important role in the development of portal architecture in Tallinn.

In 1651-1652, to follow the trends of Baroque architecture, the portal was closed and the entrance was moved to the centre of the building. The current entrance is from the 18th century. The door next to the old portal is from a later period as well.



8. Great Guild Hall

Pikk 17

This is one of the most important examples of secular Gothic architecture in Tallinn. It was built to house the Great Guild, a guild for merchants and artisans operating in the city since at least the 14th century. Interesting details include the high gable with blind windows and quatrefoil-shaped niches with the coats-of-arms of the guild (a silver cross on a red shield). The portal has oaken doors with massive knockers from around 1430, an excellent example of local bronzework. The stained-glass lantern above the portal is from the mid-18th century (renewed in 1860). The pointed-arch windows on both sides of the portal replace the original rectangular windows.


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9. Saint Olaf’s Guild Hall

Pikk 24 / Pühavaimu 9

These two houses belonged to Saint Olaf’s Guild, an association of artisans.

The smaller, gabled building served as an entrance hall. High on the gable, there is a stone plaque with a relief of Saint Olaf from the second half of the 16th century. The coats-of-arms of the Burchhardt and von zur Mühlen families, the later tenants of the building, under the lower hatch are from 1749.

The bigger building on the right, which used to have a gable with blind windows, was the guild hall. Its interior is considered to be the most beautiful among the medieval secular rooms of Tallinn.

Since 1834 the entrance hall has the same plaster rustication as the adjacent House of the Blackheads, a masterpiece of Estonian Renaissance architecture.


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10. Town Jail

Raekoja 6
Hans Howensteen, 1441-1442

This late-Gothic building was specially constructed to house a prison. The simple entrance portal lies deep in the façade.



11. House of the prison warden and bailiffs

Raekoja 4

This building, joined with the town jail in the 1440s, was the home of the prison warden and bailiffs. Its ground plan is unusual, since both the entrance hall (diele) and the living room (dornse) are located along the street front. (Usually, the dornse was behind the diele.) The entrance portal is original.



12. Armoury and foundry

Rüütli 8 & 10
Armoury 1449-1450, foundry unknown

The workshops belonging to the city of Tallinn were originally located in an area between the Town Hall Square and the Dunkri, Rataskaevu, and Voorimehe streets. In 1372 they were moved to what is now the Rüütli Street. The foundry was on Rüütli 8 and the armoury on Rüütli 10.

The latter building is better preserved of the two. Its ground plan follows the typical dieledornse system. On its north side there is an extension, on the first floor of which there was a prison cell since the end of the 15th century.


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13. Packing House

Vana turg 1
Stonework Siffer Kock and Paul Harra, carpentery Jacob Wichman, 1655-1656

This huge building housed storage rooms, granaries, and shops. It was the only place in Tallinn where foreigners were allows to store their goods. It was constructed in the Baroque period, the influence of which can be seen in the symmetrical design of the narrow façade and in the shape of the arches of the portals. Many elements, however, are still Gothic: the high gable, the big rectangular windows with a carved stone framing next to the portals, buttresses, and hatches with a beam and pulley structure.