PRESS RELEASE: Re-consecration and grand opening of St. Paul’s Church of Tartu

With the help of our Lord, the renovation of St. Paul’s Church has been completed. Psalm 127:1 “A song of ascents of Solomon: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain”.

On 12 September 2015, the St. Paul’s Church of Tartu will be re-consecrated.  This is followed by a grand opening concert in the newly consecrated church, organised by the Foundation of St. Paul’s Church of Tartu, EELC St. Paul’s Congregation and the City of Tartu in cooperation with Eesti Kontsert. Arvo Volmer will conduct the oratorio “Jonah’s Mission” by Rudolf Tobias.

By the example of the first consecration that took place in 1917, the re-consecration will also commence with clerical procession from the St. Mary’s Church of Tartu. The procession will arrive at the St. Paul’s Church and the archbishop Urmas Viilma will re-consecrate the renovated place of worship during formal service.

The hall of St. Paul’s Church of Tartu with its balconies, original cloister and altar placement seats 1,100 people and holds 56-register organ, which is the biggest concert organ in South Estonia. Therefore, the St. Paul’s Church serves as a magnificent concert hall for presenting major works. Oratorio “Jonah’s Mission” (1909) by Rudolf Tobias is based on the Book of Jonah from the Old Testament. “Jonah’s Mission” is the first Estonian oratorio.

Preparations for renovation of St. Paul’s Church of Tartu started in spring 2005, when a conference on the restoration of the church was held. In late December that year, the City of Tartu and EELC St. Paul’s Congregation of Tartu established a foundation in order to carry out restoration works and find sources of funding.

In 2005-2015, St. Paul’s Church of Tartu was fully renovated. This included extension of the premises in the basement – crypt, columbarium and ancillary premises. Wing and church hall were also fully renovated, new look was given to church yard, green areas and parking lot. Renovations were led by architects Merja Nieminen and Kari Järvinen who followed the style of Eliel Saarinen. Interior design was created by Markku Nors. Technical and structural works were performed by Finnish design company Maaskola OY. Renovation works were carried out by Nordecon AS, Haspo AS, Timorehitus OÜ and GRK Infra AS. Organ was designed and constructed by Paschen Kiel Orgelbau GmbH in Germany. The altarpiece was created by Kuutti Lavonen.

Here, pastor Joel Luhamets would like to quote Psalm of David 118: "The Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes".

The St. Paul’s church complex in Tartu represents one of the most outstanding ensembles in the 20th century church architecture and the only Art Noveau style church in Estonia.

St. Paul’s Church has a significant place among the works of beloved Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. Despite a number of church designs, the St. Paul’s Church of Tartu is the only remaining place of worship designed during his Finnish period in Europe and thus has a distinguished position in the history of both Estonian and Finnish architecture.

Eliel Saarinen commenced the design work of the church in December 1911 and the church was consecrated in October 1917. On 25 August 1944, the church burnt down to ruins and was consecrated again after its restoration on 3 July 1966. After consecration of the church, various sections of the building were allocated to the Sports Museum, Estonian National Museum and the congregation. Congregation was allowed to use a quarter of the building. The congregation re-gained ownership of the entire church building in September 2005.

Further information:

Elo Süld, Head of the Foundation St. Paul’s Church of Tartu
+372 528 4922
Joel Luhamets
Bishop of EELC, Pastor of St. Paul’s Congregation of Tartu
+372 508 7366
Urmas Klaas
Mayor of Tartu, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Foundation St. Paul’s Church of Tartu
Compiled by:
Silvia Leiaru, +372 5665 0956