No. 43




The Royal Splendour of the Lost State Hall Building

09 June 2021


RiTo No. 43, 2021

  • Jaak Juske

    Member of the Riigikogu, Social Democratic Party

Toompea Castle in Tallinn, the historical small fortress, consists of several buildings dating from different periods. However, one magnificent representative building has been almost completely destroyed.

In 1561, during the Livonian War, Tallinn went under the power of the King of Sweden. Some time later, the reconstruction of the castle began at Toompea. The reconstruction works were given a new impetus when John III (Johan III) became the King of Sweden in 1569. A mediaeval fortress was transformed into a noble Renaissance palace. The most important innovation was the State Hall, which was built against the western wall of the front courtyard of the castle. The State Hall was 25 meters long and 11 meters wide and had a wooden ceiling. It was accessed from the castle courtyard by a two-sided grand stairway that ended in an open balcony; the Royal Palace in Stockholm was used as an example. Three large windows were cut into the western wall of the castle.

When John III and his son Sigismund – the King of Poland and heir to the throne of Sweden – met in Tallinn in August 1589, the State Hall and the state apartments were ready. After long negotiations, no agreement was reached, and at the end of September, Sigismund went back to Poland. John III never saw his son again. The unsuccessful meeting later brought about wars between the two countries that devastated the territory of Estonia.

Today, you cannot find the State Hall Building at Toompea. When the Province Government Building was built during the reign of Catherine II in the second half of the 18th century, the second storey of the old palace was demolished and a new, lower building was erected on the remaining walls.

In the course of the extensive reconstruction of the castle complex in 1935, it was replaced by a narrow three-storey house with flats for officials, which was built against the western wall. Now the offices of the members of the Riigikogu are located there. Only three partially walled windows and the trumpeters’ balcony (restored last year) on the western facade of the castle remain from the State Hall Building. When you look at Toompea Castle from Snell’s Park, they are clearly visible in the high limestone wall.