Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finding Estonian Churches

Estonia is one of the more recent European converts to Christianity.

The religion didn't really arrive here until about the mid-13th century, and even today, Estonians are considered some of the least religious people on earth. While they might arguably be called Christian, there is still a great deal of "maa usk" or Earth religion, mixed in.

Still, the country is filled with beautiful churches, most of which are either Lutheran or Estonian or Russian Orthodox. And some of the original churches, built when Christianity arrived here, still stand. And many of those, because the people were (are) still basically pagan, contain interesting pagan symbols on the wall. The church in the masthead, for example, located in Kaarma on the island of Saaremaa, boasts a gigantic pentacle next to the pulpit.

I am a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, posted to Estonia for three years at the Public Affairs Officer. Already one year into my tour, I have rapidly developed a deep love for this country and its beauty. I try to travel around as much as possible to see the countryside and all it offers. If you have a chance to visit this wonderful place, do, and leave your pre-conceptions about "Eastern Europe" far behind.

It was during some of my travels around the country that I decided on the project that is the subject of this blog. On a recent trip to Saaremaa, my wife and I visited a few of these churches, and I got the idea to attempt to photograph all of the churches in Estonia. I have since modified the idea to include only those churches built before 1900, and I fear even that may be too many. But we shall see.

Whether I photograph them all or not, the purpose of this blog is to document that project and to provide pictures and I bit of information on each of the churches I visit. I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I enjoy the journey.

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