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Niguliste Kirik

Niguliste Kirik

Treasures inside the Niguliste Kirik (St. Nicholas' Church) in Tallinn's Old Town are now under wraps or removed altogether, as work starts on an extensive refurbishment which will see a viewing platform installed in the church's bell tower edifice.

Niguliste museum refurbishment work starts

Niguliste Church interior, while undergoing refurbishment

The Dance Macabre fresco is currently under wraps

The 14th-15th century building long since ceased to function as a consecrated church, and is instead the home of a museum - the Art Museum of Estonia (Eesti Kunstimuuseum).

Museum director Tarmo Saaret said: "Where we had a place available, we took artifacts them safely to the vaults. But we tried to leave the larger objects here in the conditions they are accustomed to, while covering them in such a way as to guarantee that nothing will happen to them."

The churches' organ, which was restored in the-then Czechoslovakia, in 1981, remains uncovered so far as the keyboard goes, though the many thousands of organ pipes have been covered, to prevent dust getting in and damaging them.

The museum's centerpiece exhibit, the Danse Macabre (Estonian: Surmatants, German: Totentanz) by Bernt Notke (1440-1509), has for the time being been replaced by a chipboard panel, wile coats of arms of those well-heeled former Tallinn residents who had passed away are, or will be, also covered.

The work will continue until autumn.

As reported by ERR News, the plans involve the installation of an elevator which will ferry people between the ground and an observation deck in the 105-meter-high tower, while a mezzanine floor will also offer a new perspective and space to display art-work.

The observation bay itself will require the opening up of currently battened-down windows, allowing for a 360-degree view of the Old Town and beyond.

The Niguliste kirik's tower was extensively damaged in a fire in 1982, on top of damage the building suffered during World War Two.

Niguliste Church hopes to open tower for guests from next year

It is possible that from next year, the doors of the tower of Nigulsite Church in Tallinn will open for all those interested in enjoying a view of the capital from a new vantage point. The tower will be fitted out with a lift.

Niguliste Church in fact functions as a museum, rather than for its original purpose. The tower's spire burnt down in 1982 and was subsequently reconstructed.

The idea to open the church tower to the public dates way back to 1970, with the concept of visitors taking a lift from about mid-way up actively discussed in the recent past. Architects KOKO proposed running the lift from the ground floor instead.

"The whole idea is very special because the lift can be used by disabled people, it is possible to enter with a wheelchair, take the lift and enjoy the view, and all this also for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to get up there by walking," Director of the Estonian Art Museum, Sirje Helme, said.

KOKO architect Raivo Kotov noted that the fact that Niguliste is a historical building with very thick walls raised the question of how something new might be created there.

"Our concept was that the new structure has to be as light and transparent as possible, as invisible as possible, so the historical architectural heritage, like the stained glass, can be seen," Kotov explained.

"This why we have used glass and steel. We didn't plan a regular lift shaft, but this lift will be as light as possible, meaning an architectural element without a shaft."

Details that require resolving include safety issues.

"The lift will bring a lot of joy but a lot of worry too, because everything needs to be solved logistically. How will the public move around, might it disturb the regular museum's activities, for example, excursions, concerts and everything else," director of the Niguliste Museum, Tarmo Saaret, said.

The exact cost of the project is not known yet, but it could be around €1 million, ERR's culture portal reports.

"When we started to introduce the idea to the council, they asked if the next application will be on the Ministry of Culture's table," Helme said. "We confirmed it won't, we have had a good few years and we have allocated the money for the lift. So we are not planning to ask for money from the ministry."

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