Gothic Portals & Gables of Tallinn

Part Three: Merchants’ Houses


14. Three Sisters

Pikk 71
Corner building – early 15th century, middle building – 1415, small building – around 1451

The three buildings now commonly referred to as the Three Sisters belonged to separate owners until 1860.

The corner building is the biggest one. It has a gable with blind windows in shapes that are reminiscent of the west façade of the church of the Convent of Saint Bridget. The pointed-arch portal in the centre of the façade frames the beautiful Baroque entrance door by Franz Hoppelstäd (1651). Big rectangular windows were on both sides of the portal until the 1860s. Atypically, the corner house only has an entrance hall (diele). The living room (dornse), which is usually behind the diele, is, here, together with the kitchen, in a separate building, located just behind it. Since there is no trace of a medieval heating system in the main building, it probably functioned just as an office.

The small house, too, was atypical, since its entrance was on the side, the dornse was on the front of the Pikk Street, and the first floor, too, was probably used as living quarters right from the beginning.

The middle building was typical in its ground plan.


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15. Residential building on Lai 29


This Gothic merchant’s house is located behind two old linden trees. It has a typical dieledornse ground plan. The design of its portal follows the example of that of the Town Hall, constructed a decade earlier. The characteristic wide gable dates from around 1720, when a new, two-floor section was added to the building on its south side and the two-floor home chapel was included under the main roof on the north side. Bernt Notke lived here.


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16. Residential building on Vanaturu kael 3

1420, late 17th century

This well-preserved building has a high gable decorated with blind windows. The contours of the latter are emphasised by limestone. There are many anchor plates from the 17th century on the façade. The entrance portal is probably a later reconstruction. The simple Baroque windows of the diele replace the original Gothic windows, which were similar to the ones visible on the façade of the building across the square (see the building on Vana turg 6).


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17. Residential building with gatehouse on Dunkri 6

First quarter of 15th century, reconstruction in second half of 17th century

The bigger house was a residential building and the smaller one was a gatehouse. The gable facing the courtyard of the latter is unique in Tallinn because of its frame construction. The façades of the both buildings date from the 17th-century reconstruction.


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18. Residential building on Rüütli 18

Known from 1431

This building has sometimes been called the Executioner’s House, because of the prison and the living quarters of the executioner that were located here in the 18th and 19th centuries. The entrance hall has a well-restored mantel-chimney.


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19. Residential building on Kuninga 6


This building had just one big room (dornse) and a small room in front of it (probably a kitchen).



20. Residential building and granary on Vana turg 6 / Viru 2

14th & 15th centuries

This was a typical merchant’s house with the entrance hall (diele) and the living room (dornse) on the ground floor and storage rooms on the upper floors. The gable is dominated by two hatches with a beam and pulley system and two narrow vent-holes. The polychrome gable boards and the ridge tile are from the Baroque period. The lower part of the façade is dominated by a limestone portal and two large Gothic windows on its both sides.


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21. Residential building and granary on Sauna 4

First half of 15th century

A typical Gothic building with a cellar, an entrance hall (diele), a living room (dornse), and storage rooms. On the main axis of the façade, under two hatches, there is a portal similar to that of the Town Hall. The big windows date from the 18th century. The current width is probably from the 18th century as well, when the gatehouse was incorporated to the main building.


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22. Residential building with a gatehouse on Suur-Karja 8

First half of 15th century

This well-preserved late-Gothic building was unique because of the two separate living rooms (dornses) instead of one on the side of the courtyard. It also has a remarkable entrance portal. The smaller gatehouse probably dates from the same period as the main building.


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23. Bishop’s House

Kuninga 1

This building is unique because of the paintings depicting Jesus Christ and the Four Evangelists in the circular niches of the gable. The gable is similar to that of the church of the Convent of Saint Bridget and may have been built by the same master. Another unique feature is a home chapel with a Gothic fireplace in the back yard of the house.



24. Residential building and granary on Kinga 10

15th century

The late-Gothic merchant’s house on Pikk 10 was reconstructed and modernised by Ernst Gustav Kühnert in 1922-1923. The building’s façade on the side of the Kinga Street, however, retained, more or less, its original 15th-century appearance. The gable has three blind windows: the central one widens like a cupola, whereas the ones on the sides are halved trefoil arches. In the central blind window there are two hatches with a beam and pulley system. The polychrome boards on the lower side of the eaves date probably from Kühnert’s reconstruction. Buttresses support the walls of the façade.



25. Residential building on Vene 23

15th century

This well-preserved late-Gothic building has an L-shaped ground plan. There was a south wing in the courtyard. Living quarters occupied the first floor and probably the second floor as well. The entrance hall (diele) was bigger than the living room (dornse).


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26. Residential building on Pikk 43

15th century

The gable of this building boasts with blind windows in the shape of halved trefoils, a rare feature on the façades of private dwellings in Hanseatic cities.



27. Residential building on Hobusepea 12

15th century

This is a small dieledornse type of a dwelling on a narrow plot of land, which makes the diele and the dornse almost the same size.


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28. Three Brothers

Lai 38/40/42
15th century

Of the Three Brothers, the building located on Lai 40 is the best preserved. It has a high gable and a typical dieledornse ground plan. Its original entrance portal together with the big windows of the diele were destroyed in the 19th century. The building on Lai 38 looks the most modern of the three.


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29. Residential building on Pikk 15

15th century

This building has a very high front gable. It forms a visual whole with the Great Guild Hall on the other side of the Börsi Passage.



30. Residential building on Pikk 69 / Tolli 1

Probably 15th century

This was originally a typical late-Gothic building with a high gable, a pointed-arch entrance portal, and big-framed windows on its both sides. The entrance hall (diele) was on the street front, the living room (dornse) faced the courtyard, and the storage rooms were on the upper floors. There was also a cellar with a hypocaust and a mantel-chimney crossing all the floors. The building has buttresses of unplastered stone and an interesting oriel with corbels on the side of the Tolli Street. The current gable is lower than the original. The windows are newer and the entrance portal is new as well.



31. Residential building on Tolli 3

15th century

This was a typical medieval residential building in Tallinn: the entrance hall (diele) and the living room (dornse) on the ground floor, storage rooms on the upper floors, and food storage under the dornse in the cellar. It got damaged during the fire of the adjacent Church of Saint Olaf in 1625. The first floor was divided into living rooms in the 17th and the second floor in the 19th century.


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32. Residential building on Vene 12

15th century

The gable is decorated with circular niches and anchor plates. The hatch with a beam and pulley system is placed asymmetrically. In the 18th century, the building was given a Baroque look.



33. Building on Olevimägi 2

15th century

This 15th-century gable is among the least conspicuous in Tallinn.



34. Residential building on Tolli 6

15th century

A late-Gothic structure, originally a residential building and, since the end of the 18th century, a granary


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35. Residential building on Rüütli 12

Late 15th century

This building (on the far left) had the entrance hall (diele) in the back and the living room (dornse) on the street front. The windows are Baroque. The high gable has a hatch with a beam and pulley system.



36. Residential building on Rüütli 12a

Late 14th century, 1514-1515

This building has a high gable decorated with blind windows and hatches with a beam and pulley system. Its ground plan was exceptional in Tallinn: instead of one entrance hall (diele), facing the street, and one living room (dornse), facing the courtyard, there are two dieles and two dornses separated by a high wall. The building had two portals and two perrons as well. Such a structure is probably related to the fact that the building was constructed in 1514-1515 on the site of two smaller houses, dating from the end of the 14th century. The reconstruction joined those two buildings together under one roof.



37. Residential building on Lai 23

Second quarter of 16th century

This is one of the best preserved medieval merchant’s houses in Tallinn.

The façade is symmetrical and has a high gable. Rectangular windows with big frames balance the central axis, on which we find the external staircase, the entrance portal, three hatches with a beam and pulley system, a circular niche, a Baroque ridge tile (from 1655), and a weather vane (from 1970). The perron in front of the portal was reconstructed in 1972 on the basis of an old perron stone.

The ground plan is typical: the entrance hall (diele) in the front and the living quarters (dornse) in the back of the building. At the back corner of the diele there is a kitchen with a mantel-chimney, under which in the cellar a vaulted hypocaust is located. From there warm air was directed through the holes of a limestone plate to the dornse.

There are many interesting details from different periods in the interior. Two rooms accessible to visitors.


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38. Economic and residential building on Aida 6

15th century

On this plot of land, part of the merchant’s house on Lai 23, there was originally a stable or a barn. It was converted to a residential building in 1551-1558 and in 1723-1739 to a granary. In 1967-1968 it was restored as a residential building, and now is used as a storehouse.