Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn
The origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, when a castle was built there by the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order. It developed as a major centre of the Hanseatic League, and its wealth is demonstrated by the opulence of the public buildings (the churches in particular) and the domestic architecture of the merchants' houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree despite the ravages of fire and war in the intervening centuries.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn is an exceptionally complete and well-preserved medieval northern European trading city on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The city developed as a significant centre of the Hanseatic League during the major period of activity of this great trading organization in the 13th-16th centuries.
The combination of the upper town on the high limestone hill and the lower town at its foot with many church spires forms an expressive skyline that is visible from a great distance both from land and sea.
The upper town (Toompea) with the castle and the cathedral has always been the administrative centre of the country, whereas the lower town preserves to a remarkable extent the medieval urban fabric of narrow winding streets, many of which retain their medieval names, and fine public and burgher buildings, including town wall, Town Hall, pharmacy, churches, monasteries, merchants’ and craftsmen’ guilds, and the domestic architecture of the merchants' houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree. The distribution of building plots survives virtually intact from the 13th-14th centuries.
The Outstanding Universal Value of the Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn is demonstrated in its existence as an outstanding, exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a medieval northern European trading city that retains the salient features of this unique form of economic and social community to a remarkable degree.
Criterion (ii): The Historic Centre of Tallinn, among the most remote and powerful outposts of the colonizing activities of the Hanseatic League in the north-eastern part of Europe in the 13th-16th centuries, provided a crucible within which an international secular-ecclesiastical culture resulting from the interchange of Cistercians, Dominicans, the Teutonic Order and the traditions of the Hanseatic League, formed and was itself exported throughout northern Europe.
Criterion (iv): The town plan and the buildings within it constitute a remarkable reflection of the coexistence of the seat of feudal overlords and a Hanseatic trading centre within the shelter of a common system of walls and fortifications.
The boundaries of the inscribed World Heritage property and its buffer zone were modified in 2008 in order to bring the boundaries of the inscribed property in conformity with the boundaries of the Tallinn Old Town Conservation Area, recognized as a national monument in Estonia. The historic centre of Tallinn World Heritage property (thus increased from 60 ha. to 113 ha.) now encompasses the upper town (Toompea), the lower town inside the medieval walls, as well as the 17th century historic fortifications surrounding the entire Old Town, and a range of primarily 19th century structures, streetscapes and views, which today form a green area around the medieval city. This modification has ensured inclusion of all primary elements contributing to the outstanding universal value of the property, and strongly enhanced its completeness and integrity.
The buffer zone, increased from 370 ha to 2253 ha, also in 2008, now protects the immediate setting of the inscribed property in a much more complete fashion. Extended to the sea to include views from Viimsi and Kopli peninsulas, the buffer zone now includes 9 view sectors and 5 view corridors.
To date, Tallinn has maintained its characteristic skyline visible from both the sea and the land. The characteristic skyline however could be vulnerable because of planned high rise development outside the buffer zone.
The site preserves to a remarkable extent the medieval urban structure of building plots, streets and squares, set out in the 13th century, as well as medieval urban fabric. The radial street network is well endowed with buildings from the 14th-16th centuries. The town defences have been preserved over large sections at their original length and height, rising to over 15m in places.
In addition to architectural continuity, Old Town has retained its traditional use as a living city, hosting domestic, commercial and religious functions, and retaining the upper town as the administrative centre of the country. Nevertheless increasingly historic residential buildings are being refurbished for touristic or public use and thus subject to increased life safety and accessibility requirements.
The authentic setting of the inscribed World Heritage property includes some significant architecture from the late 19th century and early 20th century including theatres and schools as well as a number of exceptional wooden suburbs which form an integral part of the historic, urban fabric round Tallinn Old Town.
Until recently the survival of the wooden quarters was threatened by unclear ownership in the years following independence and in a general indifference to the qualities they offered residents. This latter could be seen in a lack of maintenance, and inappropriate upgrading and repair approaches. Today however the situation is turned around and these wooden areas are much valued, and adequate measures are in place to maintain their authenticity.
Protection and management requirements
The Tallinn Old Town conservation area established in 1966 by regulation Nr 360 of the Council of Ministers of the Estonian Socialist Soviet Republic (ESSR), and confirmed in 1996 by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia, was the first conservation area established in the former USSR. It was intended to sustain the well-preserved physical substance and integrity of the entire property.
Several contemporary legislative and local government documents also complement the protection of the values of Tallinn Old Town and regulate its administration. These include the Statutes of the Heritage Conservation Area of Tallinn Old Town (Historic Centre) based upon the Heritage Conservation Act of 2002 (amended in 2011). These Statutes, fully applicable to the inscribed property following increase of the boundaries of the property in 2008 and its buffer zone, are focused on managing preservation, conservation, planning and building activities within the area and related supporting administrative arrangements. More specifically, the Statutes provide for maintaining the historic plot structure, building volume and density, historic structures and details of the World Heritage property.
The revised Heritage Conservation Act ensures that research and design permits and activity licensing provisions apply to all structures within the World Heritage property, not just listed monuments. These ensure that all necessary historical and archaeological research is conducted before any building activity is carried out in the inscribed property.
Responsibility for implementation of these regulations and statutes is shared between the National Heritage Board and the Tallinn City Government. Overall supervision is conducted by the National Heritage Board (state level), while the Tallinn Cultural Heritage Department (municipal level) is in charge of direct implementation of the statutes. Experts of the Heritage Conservation Advisory Panel provide consultation on specific questions and issues. Decisions concerning planning and building within the World Heritage property are made by consensus of the National Heritage Board and Tallinn City Government.
The Tallinn Old Town Management Committee has been established in 2010 to strengthen cooperation and co-ordination among responsible organizations, NGOs, local community and other stakeholders.It is also responsible for approving, enhancing and monitoring implementation of the comprehensive management plan of the property (scheduled to be finalized by December 2011). The latter plan will replace the “Development Plan of Tallinn Old Town” 2008-2013, enacted on 28 August 2008, and give prominence to protecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Existing management provisions are aided by municipal initiatives (appointment of a full time archaeologist the Cultural Heritage Department in 2010, to increase provisions for archaeological monitoring where new work is envisioned) and guidance obtained from important public forums (e.g., the May 2002 conference “Alternatives to Historical Reconstruction in UNESCO World Heritage Cities” whose concluding resolution provides a number of key principles guiding future development within the inscribed property).
Future management strategies should support efforts to strengthen provisions for sustaining authenticity and integrity. Management strategies must attempt to balance residential use with other private/public uses which may threaten the authenticity of the affected structures.The threat to integrity from high rise development outside of the buffer zone is partly addressed in the thematic plan “Framework for high-rise buildings in Tallinn” (adopted by Tallinn City Council in 2008), which contributes to the protection of the skyline, and associated view sectors and view corridors. However effective use of the Thematic Plan to fully preserve the visual integrity of the World Heritage property requires efforts to strengthen consensus among all concerned stakeholders about effective means for in situ implementation of the Plan in all identified view sectors.
Tallinn is an outstanding and exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a medieval northern European trading city. It retains the salient features of this unique form of economic and social community to a remarkable degree.
Archaeological investigations have shown that a fort on the limestone plateau of Toompea and a trading post and harbour at its foot, on the Viking route to Constantinople, have existed since the 10th-11th centuries. With the expansion of Baltic trade, the settlement known at that time as Lyndanise (Reval in German, Kolyvan in Russian) was occupied in 1219 by troops of Waldemar II of Denmark, who strengthened the fortifications on Toompea and built the first church.
After coming under direct papal jurisdiction in 1226-27, the town was divided into two parts: the fortress (castrum ) and the lower town (suburbum ). In 1230 the order invited 200 German merchants from Gotland to Tallinn, where they settled around a new church dedicated to St Nicholas, alongside the existing Estonian, Scandinavian and Russian trading posts. In 1248 Tallinn adopted the Lübeck statute, becoming a full member of the Hanseatic League in 1285. Its prosperity was reflected by its rapid growth in the 14th century: work began on the massive town wall in 1310, enclosing an area laid out according to the characteristic Baltic trading pattern with radiating streets. Along with the territory of northern Estonia, the town was sold to the Livonian Order, and it was the latter that was responsible for rebuilding the castle on Toompea as one of the strongest in the region.
With the fall of Visby in 1361 the importance of Tallinn increased substantially. The 15th century saw the transformation of the town, with the construction of a new town hall and other public buildings and the rebuilding of the merchants' wooden houses in stone. It was annexed by Sweden in 1561, and it was Swedish architects who were responsible for the reconstruction of the Toompea area after a disastrous fire in 1684 and for the addition of a system of bastions to the fortifications. In 1710 the town surrendered to the troops of Tsar Peter I, entering into a half-century of commercial and cultural stagnation, but this came to an end when its role as a provincial administrative centre was confirmed, with the castle as its seat. The town was heavily bombed in 1944. The church of St Nicholas and the area around it suffered grave damage.
The most prominent feature of the town is the Toompea limestone hill. The western part is occupied by the castle, of which the tower known as Long Hermann, two bastions and the imposing walls survive on the western, northern and eastern sides. Within the enceinte is the cathedral, which is basically Gothic but has been extended and reconstructed on a number of occasions since the Middle Ages.
The lower town preserves to a remarkable extent the medieval urban fabric of narrow winding streets, many of which retain their medieval names, and fine public and burgher buildings. The distribution of building plots survives virtually intact from the 13th-14th centuries.
Around the town hall (1371-1404) in Town Hall Square there are some exceptionally well-preserved burgher houses. These are high gabled structures in stone, the ground floors having been used for living quarters and the upper storeys as granaries and storehouses, many retaining their original projecting winch beams. An outstanding structure is the House of the Great Guild (1410), which is a splendid example of Northern Gothic with fine vaulted ceilings and richly decorated columns.
There are several medieval churches within the walls. The restored Church of St Nicholas (Niguliste) and the Church of St Olaf (Oleviste) are both in typical basilical form, with lofty vaulting and a precise geometry of form in what is recognized to be the distinctive Tallinn School. There are two monastic complexes surviving within the walls - the Dominican monastery of St Catherine and the Cistercian nunnery of St Michael, which was characteristically sited away from the main urban complex.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Archaeological investigations have shown that a fort on the limestone plateau of Toompea and a trading post and harbour at its foot, on the Viking route to Miklagárd (Constantinople), have existed since the lOth-11th centuries. With the expansion of Baltic trade, the settlement known at that time as Lyndanise (Reval in German, Kolyvan in Russian) was occupied in 1219 by troops of Waldemar II of Denmark, who strengthened the fortifications on Toompea and built the first church.
After coming under direct Papal jurisdiction in 1226- 27, the town was assigned to the crusading Order of the Brethren of the Sword (later to be merged with the Teutonic Order), who divided the settlement into two parts - the fortress (castrum) and the lower town (suburburn). In 1230 the Order invited two hundred German merchants from Gotland to Tall&, where they settled around a new church dedicated to St Nicholas, alongside the existing Estonian, Scandinavian, and Russian trading posts. They were quickly followed by the Dominican and Cistercian Orders, who established the monasteries of St Catherine and St Michael respectively.
In 1248 Tallinn adopted the Ltibeck statute, becoming a full member of the Hanseatic League in 1285, as a key station on the trade route between the Baltic lands and the interior of Russia. Its prosperity was reflected by its rapid growth in the 14th century: work began on the massive town wall in 1310, enclosing an area laid out according to the characteristic Baltic trading pattern with radiating streets. Along with the territory of northern Estonia the town was sold in 1345 to the Teutonic Order, who promptly sold it on to the Livonian Order, and it was the latter who were responsible for rebuilding the castle on Toompea as one of the strongest in the region.
With the fall of Visby in 1361 the importance of Tallinn along with Riga, increased substantially. The 15th century saw the transformation of the town, with the construction of a new town hall and other public buildings and the rebuilding of the merchants' wooden houses in stone.
Despite the decline of the Hanseatic League Tom the 15th century, the commercial role of Tallinn survived and the town continued to be embellished with fine public and domestic buildings according to prevailing architectural taste. It was annexed by Sweden in 1561, and it was Swedish architects who were responsible for the reconstruction of the Toompea area after a disastrous fire in 1684 and for the addition of a system of bastions to the fortifications.
ln 1710 the town surrendered to the troops of Tsar Peter I and entered into a half-century of commercial and cultural stagnation, but this came to an end when its role as a provincial administrative centre was confirmed, with the castle as its seat. Tallinn continued in this role, with relatively few but very significant additions right up to the early years of the 20th century.
During World War II, when Tallinn was under German occupation after a short-lived period of Estonian independence between 1918 and 1940, the town was heavily bombed in 1944. The church of St Nicholas and the area around it suffered grave damage and destruction. The church was carefully reconstructed and now serves as a museum, with an open space around it. Buildings around the church, although constructed in the "Stalinist" style, respect the scale and proportions of the rest of the historic town.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation