September 5th 1910 can be thought of as the anniversary of St. Paul’s congregation in Tartu. That was the day when Arnold August Viktor Habicht became the pastor of city division of Tartu St. Mary’s congregation. The statutes of the congregation were approved on the 28th of October 1911. The name St. Paul’s Church of Tartu was established since the end of January 1912. The congregation was granted the use of St. Mary’s Church, where it operated until the autumn of 1917. Along with the establishment of the congregation there occurred the idea to build a church.
In January 1911, Tartu City Government decided to give the plot on Riia Street to St. Paul’s congregation. The search for the architects and building designs began immediately after finding the construction site. Representatives went to see the newly completed Gertrude Church in Riga. Negotiations were held with architect Styk. They also addressed Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who made a construction design and personally came to Tartu to present it on the 21st of December 1911.
Eliel Saarinen started designing the church in December 1911. The church was built according to Saarinen’s project prepared in 1913. According to the design, the building consisted of three parts: the church and the two wings that were in line with the street and connected to the church, the space between them forming a forecourt. The focal point of more or less symmetrical design solution consisted in the central nave, the importance and function of which was emphasized by the tower.
The wings were connected to the main building via the second floor. The right wing was intended for the office and the living quarters of congregation staff, the left wing was meant to house the premises for congregational work. Only the left wing was actually completed. Connecting of different buildings related to the operation of the church and the congregation was uncommon in the 20th century, the first similar churches were built in Germany only in late 19th century.
The Northwest -Southeast oriented hall church had traditional symmetrical structure. The longitudinal building was connected to a fairly wide single-nave transept. The choir ended with a semicircular apse. Thus, the church hall formed the shape of a Latin cross, which unfortunately remained imperceptible at the back due to the ancillary rooms located on both sides of the altar.
The design of St. Paul’s Church of Tartu’s was consecrated on the 1st October 1917.
St. Paul’s was built during the era of war and revolutions. Consecrated church had no altar, church bells, or organ; the church was not decorated or plastered.The altar area got new interior design in 1923–1924. The changes in the interior décor started with finding a new altar statue for the apse. Amandus Adamson (1855–1929) made the altar statue of Carrara marble in 1922 in Italy. The statue saying “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” was consecrated on the 17th of March 1923. It symbolized Jesus, whose right hand was above Mary Magdalene and the left arm above the blind man from Jericho – the first one symbolizes heartache and a soul yearning for freedom under a burden of sin and the second one symbolizes the embodiment of sickness. The statue itself was larger than life, with total height of 3.5m (11.5 ft.) without the base.
Mielberg designed a new, darker look for the altar room in 1923. The work was completed in 1924. Closing in the windows probably wasn’t enough, because electric lighting had to be installed to better exhibit the statue.
The church bells were consecrated on the 13th of December 1923. They were made in Bochum, Ruhr. The larger bell (dis) “I am the voice of one crying” weighed 1 200 kg (2 645.5 lbs.) and the smaller bell (fis) “My tongue shall announce Your praise, every day” weighed 800 kg (1 763.7 lbs.). Central heating was installed in 1924, thus finally using the recesses that were built for that purpose already in 1917. In the same year, the organ that had been bought in 1917 was also expanded.As the construction of the two wings of the building did not seem to have a future, Artur Kirsipu, the assistant city architect of Tartu compiled a new building design for left wing in 1931. Instead of following Saarinen’s vision, Kirsipu designed the office and other business rooms on the first floor, pastor’s apartment on the second floor and the assistant pastor’s apartment on the third floor instead of congregational premises. The wing was handed over to the congregation on the 4th of November 1932.