A Spiritual and Cultural-Historical Journey
from Pirita to Vana-Vastseliina

Pilgrim’s route

Põltsamaa St Nicholas Church


Põltsamaa church is strange: it consists of a cuboid and a cylinder. The reason is simple: there used to be no church here, but a gatehouse and cannon tower of a stronghold. In the Middle Ages, the church was located on the other side of the river.

We know practically nothing about the medieval church. However, a carved stone was once found on the site, which is now in Põltsamaa Museum. The limestone bracket depicts two head closely together. It has been claimed that these are Adam and Eve. Sounds nice... only have you ever actually come across a medieval sculpture or picture where Adam and Eve are even a bit intimate? The key to understand the Põltsamaa couple lies in Türi church. A bracket there has two heads as well, one cheek against the other, and on another bracket, a man is wearing a funnel-shaped hat.
In medieval art, such headgear is worn by Jewish characters. Everything should now be clear: what we see here is the kiss of Judas, observed by one of the men who captured Jesus.


The medieval church was destroyed in the warfare in the early 17th century. New times arrived in Põltsamaa in the 1630s, when Herman Wrangel reconstructed the stronghold and turned it into a modern castle, using the walls of medieval fortifications for building a new church. Then came destruction in the Great Northern War (1700–1721) and restoration work. The Baroque spire was completed in 1751. The church was again fully destroyed in the summer of 1941, but was built up on the initiative of pastor Herbert Kuurme between 1947 and 1952.
Põltsamaa and Lüganuse were the first restored churches in Estonia after the war. The spire, however, was completed only in 1969.



Most of the interior (pulpit, altar, pews, chandeliers, etc.) comes from the church of the University of Tartu, closed down by the Soviets in 1948. The altar wall was designed by Matthias Holst (1868), and shows two paintings in swivel frames: Woldemar Friedrich Krüger’s „Women at the Grave” and Julie Hagen-Schwarz’s „The Crucifixion”.

Kaur Alttoa, 2016


Few in Estonia know the story of the Põltsamaa church. This is one of the stories that offers people support, strength and hope in difficult times, and we should all remember it as a testimony to the power of the spirit of our people.
Dry facts are as follows:
In the course of World War II the Põltsamaa church was reduced to ruins.
Despite occupation, poverty, persecution of Christians, on the initiative of their pastor Herbert Kuurme, the congregation began the restoration of their church in 1947.
The work was supported by donations.
It took twelve years to restore the church. These were the most difficult years in modern Estonian history, as they also included the March deportations in 1949.
The mere idea of restoring the church at that time must have seemed completely crazy, if not impossible.
There were shortages of food, fuel, shoes or clothes. Christians were pursued and arrested, many disappeared into the KGB cellars.
Building material was impossible to find. There were no nails, let alone other things. Old rusting nails were torn out of planks with pliers, hammered until straight again, and then reused.
However, such circumstances were not only frustrating people, but incited them to mental opposition.
The restored church in Põltsamaa is a peculiar freedom monument, dedicated to the power of the human spirit, dedicated to the possibility of the impossible.

Viivi Luik, 2021

Herbert_Kuurme_P6ltsamaa_lossi_torni_otsas_6_06_1937-2.jpg      P6ltsamaa_kiriku_ehitus_img077.jpg
Herbert Kuurme on top of the tower of Põltsamaa castle on 6 June 1937. Private collection.
Construction of the Põltsamaa church. Private collection.

Herbert Kuurme: „The rod for the tower is also ready and we bring it out. Viktor Jürisson and his son Endel made this in the workshop of the Põltsamaa branch of Corporation of Estonian Agricultural Technology.” Private collection.

Accommodation possible in the congregation house of Põltsamaa St Nicholas Church
Contact: tel. 522 3368, poltsamaa@eelk.ee   http://www.poltsamaakogudus.ee/
Please book accommodation at least a week beforehand!