Visited August 14, 2012
Coolest church visit so far by far!!
I went back to Saaremaa to speak to the students participating in a science camp (awesomely smart kids, by the way). On the way down, we stopped at the church in Pöide. This church is believed to be have built on the remains of a chapel built in 13th century. Apparently, after the conquest of Saaremaa in 1227, the eastern part of Saaremaa belonged to the Livonian Order, who built a fortress here as their headquarters during the second half of the 13th century. The people of Saaremaa destroyed the fortress during a wave of uprisings against the occupying forces that took place in Estonia and Saaremaa during the St.George's Night Uprising of 1343. There was a chapel on the southern side of the fortress, and the walls of this chapel form the central part of Pöide church. That, and its massive form, is why it is called fortress-church.
The building was looted and burned during World War II, and the crack down the front is the result of a lighting strike and subsequent fire in 1940. Part of the church have been renovated and reconstructed since 1989.But the coolest part of my visit? They are working on studying and renovating the building right now! Archeologists were conducting excavations while I was there, and art historians were carefully exposing the paintings which had been covered with plaster.
I got to spend some time talking to them about their work. And they showed me some of their finds. The archaeologist told me he thinks this is likely the oldest church in Estonia. Not Kaarma. Not Valjala. This church. Coolest visit ever!
This is an amazing church and I can't wait to see the results of their work!