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