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The government’s decision ensures that St Nicholas’ Church will remain a museum and concert hall
Foto: Eesti Kunstimuuseum
The government and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) reached an agreement whereby the St Nicholas’ Church building will remain a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia and concert hall. St Nicholas’ Church is one of the few European museum in which church art is exhibited in a reconstructed historical house of worship.
According to the decision of the government, €6.8 million will be appropriated to the EELC from the 2018 state budget. And in turn, the EELC will withdraw its demand for the return of St Nicholas’ Church and the non-fixed assets that belonged to its congregation. The agreement means that the long-term dispute related to the ownership of the building has been resolved, and the research and exhibition of the objects of cultural value will continue in the church building, in which the state has created the most suitable conditions.
‘The long dispute about the ownership relationships has undoubtedly caused great uncertainty for the Art Museum of Estonia. Now it is clear that the building will remain a branch of the art museum, which is the best solution for the exposition of the priceless art treasures located in St Nicholas’ Church. This resolution will definitely please all the friends of culture in Estonia and abroad, because St Nicholas Church is not only a beloved exhibition space, but also one of the most valued concert halls due to its acoustics and atmosphere,’ said Minister of Culture Indrek Saar.
St Nicholas Church is one of the few European museums where church art is exhibited in a reconstructed historical house of worship. The Art Museum of Estonia’s collection of church art of the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, which is the most valuable and internationally important art collection in Estonia, is located in the church. The collection includes the Art Museum of Estonia’s most valuable examples of church art, such as the Hermen Rode Altarpiece, Bernt Notke’s Dance of Death and the St Anthony, or Passion, Altar.
‘After a long period of uncertainty during which the museum has done its best, a much greater feeling of certitude has been established for continuing our activities. We will be able to better care for and exhibit the church art. Our goal is to maintain St Nicholas as the centre of Estonian sacral art. To achieve this, the Art Museum definitely wishes to continue its cooperation with the church and we confirm that the priceless legacy is in good hands,’ added Sirje Helme, CEO of the Art Museum of Estonia Foundation.
The St Nicholas’ Church building itself is one of the best examples of sacral architecture in Estonia. The church was probably built in the mid-13th century. It was renovated in the 14th century and thoroughly rebuilt in the 15th century. The church became Tallinn’s most beautiful sanctuary, and today, both the St Nicholas’ Church itself and the exhibition of church art located therein are the pride of the Estonian nation.
Today, on the 20th of February the Riigikogu passed the new Heritage Conservation Act. The new legislation balances the rights and obligations of the state with those of the owners of cultural monuments, creating for the first time a compensation system for monument owners. From now on, the activities of the National Heritage Board will include both heritage conservation and museum fields. The legislation comes into force as of 1 May this year.