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

Pilgrim’s route

Järva-Peetri St Peter’s Church

The ancient centre of Järva County was located in the Järva-Peetri parish, in Kareda village. The first written data about the church are from 1253, when the Bishop of Tallinn and the Teutonic Order signed an agreement; among the witnesses was also the priest of Ämbra. This is how Peetri church and parish were initially called. The oldest Estonian rural churches were always called after their location. Using a saint’s name may indicate a change in location. We cannot thus be certain if Ämbra church actually stood in the same place as today’s Peetri Church. This could be established only by means of thorough archaeological excavations. However, dedication to St Peter, head of the Christian congregation and the first pope of the Catholic church, indicates the status and old age of the church.

Most of the Teutonic Order’s properties in Järva County were located in Järva-Peetri parish, and the border was guarded by the Paide Order Castle. It is therefore likely that the church was under the patronage of the Order. This could have been the reason why the western tower initially reached only a little bit above the nave wall – according to an agreement with the Danes, the Order was not allowed to build fortifications. Peetri Church is the largest in Järva County, probably erected at the beginning of the 14th century.

In 1868, the church acquired the tallest tower in all the county, build after the design of Johann Gottfried Mühlenhausen. The master builder came from Põltsamaa and was the most prolific builder and re-designer of Lutheran churches in the 19th century. He provided many churches in southern Estonia and Järva County with new, Neo-Gothic appearance, especially agreeable to the Lutheran clergy of the time, who also funded all construction work. In earlier centuries, it was the local manor lord who had to look after the church in every way. Peter Stormkrantz, the first manor lord of Köisi who was a lieutenant-colonel of the Swedish crown, evidently had to do this too. He died in 1669 and is buried underneath the church chancel. The Baroque tombstone of Peter and his wife is excellently preserved. Some chandeliers in the church date to the same period, although the 19th century furnishings clearly dominate.



Before leaving the churchyard, the visitor should have a look behind the sacristy corner an old wheel cross, which belongs to two farmers – Odrese Andres and Andrese Mart. This cross could originate in the Swedish era. Such crosses have survived in several churchyards, meaning that there were Estonians who were able to read and write.

Kersti Markus, 2017