The ancient towers of Toompea Castle are an integral part of Estonia's political history. During the Mediaeval period, the Castle had four towers – Tall Hermann, Landskrone, Pilsticker and Stür den Kerl – which protected its four corners. Over time, these have been converted to fit the current needs, while Stür den Kerl has been demolished altogether. The most important of the remaining towers is Tall Hermann which flies the symbol of Estonia's independence – our national flag – from its top, 95 metres above the sea level.
On the second half of the 14th century The Knights of the Livonian Order decided that the Danish Castle on Toompea no longer corresponded to the defence needs. This is why they added a number of towers of different sizes and functions to defend all the corners of the Castle.
The Western façade of the Castle on the limestone cliff is 149 metres long.
The round artillery tower Landskrone was built in the North East corner of the Castle, the octagonal Stür den Kerl in the South East, Tall Hermann in the South West, and the little Pilsticker in the North West. Only three of these are still standing, as Stür den Kerl was demolished when the province government building was constructed on the second half of the 18th century.
Tall Hermann tower
Tall Hermann is one of the foremost symbols of our national independence. The national flag is hoisted to the top of the tower every day at sunrise, accompanied by a musical signature. Throughout our complicated history, many foreign flags have also flown from the top of the tower.
The national flag was first hoisted to the top of Tall Hermann on 12 December 1918 and remained there until the summer of 1940. After the decades of the Soviet occupation, the national flag was again raised on 24 February 1989. The flag is changed about six times a year and the used flags are numbered and archived. The flags are made in the flag factory from a special weather proof fabric.
Tall Hermann, which means ‘tall warrior’ or ‘great chief’ in German, was one third shorter than originally. The records say that the tower was built in three stages from the mid-14th century until the beginning of the 16th century.
Tall Hermann, rising 83 metres above the sea level, was the highest stone tower around the Baltic Sea in the Late Middle Ages. Initially it functioned as a lookout and defence tower with sweeping views which ensured that no enemy could approach unnoticed. To make life more comfortable for the guards, the tower could be heated thanks to the hypocaust-type furnace in the lower chamber. When the furnace heated up, the chimney shaft was closed off and warm air rushed upwards from the lower storeys via channels. Tall Hermann was one of the first buildings to use this type of heating system. Later, this was also used in Tallinn town houses.
Landskrone means ‘crown of the land’ in German. The tower was built in the 14th or 15th century to the North East corner of the Castle.
The tower in the North West corner of the Castle is called Pilsticker, which means ‘arrow sharpener’ in German. It was built in the end of the 14th or the beginning of the 15th century as a console tower. The three storey tower had gun slots for firearms. During the Livonian War, the Pilsticker and Landskrone towers suffered the most damage. The crowning part was added to Pilsticker during a 20th century renovation.
Stür den Kerl tower
Stür den Kerl means ‘fight back the enemy’ in German. It is difficult to date this South Eastern tower, but it is believed to have been built by the Danish in the first half of the 14th century.
The five-storey Stür den Kerl was a defence and lookout tower but was also used as an artillery tower. In addition to cannons on the first floor the tower had shooting chambers.
Just like the slightly later Tall Hermann, Stür den Kerl also had a quadrangular cellar about 11 metres deep. This was a place where the people of the Castle and the defence team could take cover in case of violent attacks and danger. The cellar has been mistaken for a dungeon in both towers. Stür den Kerl was demolished in 1767 when the Empress of Russia Catherine II gave the orders to build a new province government building.
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