St. Catherine’s Dominican Monastery in Estonia: A 777-Year-Old Wonder.

Located in Tallinn, Estonia’s (Tallinn, Estonia: The Friendly Russia.) historic Old Town, sits a 777-year-old monastery known as Saint Catherine’s Dominican Monastery. Built in 1246 by Dominican monks, it’s one of the oldest buildings in the city, and is actually one of only two remaining medieval monasteries in Tallinn. Not only was this a place of worship for monks, they even had their own hospital and brewery, where they produced 4 types of beer 🍻. Unfortunately, a large fire ripped through the monastery in 1524, taking the brewery and hospital with it. Due to this fire, only fragments of the original monastery remain.

Apologies for the blurriness, my photography skills have greatly improved within the last 13 years 🙃.

Located at Müürivahe Tänav 33, 10140, it sits on a street known as Catherine’s Alley (formerly Monk’s Alley), which is lined with predominantly 15th-17th century residences and commercial buildings. As mentioned, this is in Tallinn’s historic Old Town; a beautiful, fairytale area complete with colorful historic architecture and cobblestone streets. It’s super easy to find, and is only a 3-5 minute walk from the Town Square. The monastery does have limited hours, being open only from 11am to 3pm, TuesdaySaturday (closed on Mondays and Sundays). It costs €3 ($3.10 USD) to enter.

The monastery courtyard.

The monastery’s location was strategically chosen, as it sits in an area of Old Town that was known for merchants and warehouses. This served a purpose twofold – one to maximize the friars ability to preach the monastery’s message to all the wicked merchants and townsfolk, and two, to satisfy business interests, as the monks were known to dabble in the fish trade (on top of their brewery shenanigans). There is also a more modern church on the grounds, built within the walls of the monastery, which is open to the public from June 1st to August 31st.

Unfortunately, a large, 14th-century fire destroyed many parts of the monastery. This was during the Protestant Reformation that swept across Europe in the mid-1500’s, beginning in 1517 with the words of Martin Luther, and reaching Estonia around 1520. It was during this reformation that an angry crowd burst into the monastery, equipped with blazing torches, and set it on fire. They then forced the monks out of the monastery and the city, leaving the partially destroyed monastery to be taken over by the city’s destitute and homeless. It was left to crumble and soon became dilapidated… until it was officially reclaimed as a historical site and rightfully preserved.

Overall, if you’re ever visiting the amazing and magical city of Tallinn, Estonia, you should definitely block out a couple of hours in your schedule to visit this ancient and historic monastery. Saint Catherine’s Dominican Monastery is well on it’s way to becoming 1,000-years-old, and is a unique experience you cannot find in many parts of the “New World”. It’s well worth a visit!

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