St. Olaf’s Church, Tallinn: A View Worthy of a King


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The view from the top of the church tower brings you back to another era. (Photo: ThorNews)

When you finally have reach the top of the brick tower of St. Olaf’s Church, after going up the 258 steps and stepped out onto the narrow ledge, the view is breathtaking: 60 meters above the ground the 360 degree view of Tallinn Old Town is wonderful and brings you back to the Middle Ages. It is absolutely quiet up there and you can feel the smell of salt water that comes in with the breeze from the Baltic Sea.


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Olaf’s Church is visible from all parts of the Old Town of Tallinn. (Photo: ThorNews)

The first document concerning the church is a letter of donation from 1267 AD, composed by Margret, mother of the Danish king, giving St. Michael’s monastery patronage over the St. Olaf’s Church (Estonian: Oleviste kirik)  and the surrounding parish. It is very likely that the church was in existence even earlier, built as a place of worship by Scandinavian merchants at the beginning of the 13th century at the latest.

Around the year 1500 the church spire was 159 meters (522 ft) at its highest. It was probably originally built so tall to be used as a landmark to lead ships to the port. The tower has frequently been hit by lightning and the church burned down three times. After several rebuilds, the spire is now 123.7 meters (406 ft) high – and from 1944 to 1991, the KGB used it as a radio tower and surveillance point.

Dedicated to King Olaf II of Norway

St. Olaf’s Church got its name from the Norwegian patron saint King Olaf II Haraldsson (995 – 29 July 1030 AD), and confirms the close ties between the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic States dating back to the Viking era.

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258 steps lead you to the top of the tower. (Photo: ThorNews)

Olaf II was King of Norway from about 1015 to 1028. A description of Olaf’s life is found in the Heimskringla, the best known of the Old Norse kings’ sagas written by Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson. Heimskringla tells that about year 1008, Olaf landed on the Estonian island of Osilia – and the Osilians were taken by surprise. First they agreed to pay the demands made by Olaf, but then gathered an army during the negotiations and attacked the Norwegians. Olaf nevertheless won the battle.


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View from St. Olaf’s Church: A man on a bicycle in the street below. (Photo: ThorNews)

Olaf was killed in the Battle of Stiklestad in Norway on 29 July 1030. He was posthumously given the title Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae (English: Norway’s Eternal King) and canonized one year after his death in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Some of his remains were probably enshrined in Nidaros, built over his burial site.

Editor’s Note: ThorNews will come back with an article about King Olaf II Haraldsson.



Text and photo by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews

Sources: Oleviste Church,




Categories: Culture, History

2 replies

  1. Lovely post and very nice impressions although I’m not too happy about this Olav and what he did… 😉
    Have great weekend!

    • Hi Dina, and thank you!

      We totally agree with you and will come back with an article about ‘Olaf the Holy’and some thoughts about why he was canonized by the Catholic Church!


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