Kuninga (King) Street One, Bishop’s house

 

First historical document 1407

The Tallinn high-gabled facades from medieval times developed in 13th and 14th centuries as wooden dwellings were replaced with stone ones. Kuninga street 1 is documented for the first time in 1407. There was a dispute with the neighbor about building the vaulted corridor to the courtyard. The neighbour was opposed to the construction directly attached to his wall.

 

Renamed to Bishop’s house

After 1424 Kuninga street 1 belonged to Hans Smid. His son Emert married the Bishop of Tallinn’s sister. Later around 1460 Emert inherited the Kuninga 1 property. Bishop Euerd Kalle transferred two Pikk street houses to Emert Smid in 1463. To return the favor Emert let his brother-in-law use Kuninga 1 property. This is speculation, but from 1481 the property has been called Bishop’s house. After the great fire of 1433 on Toompea Hill many dignitaries lived in the lower town section.

 

Old Chapel construction

The Old Chapel is situated in back of the courtyard. Originally, the chapel had a vaulted stone ceiling. The stone ceiling has been replaced with a wooden one about 100 years ago. The headstone from the original vaults is a part of Estonian National museum collection. The carved text says "Int jar 1461 bauwete Emert Smid de hus"; translated "Emert Smid built this house in 1461". This is how we know the exact year.The most valuable historical detail is our lime-stone open fireplace. This is the only surviving medieval gothic style fireplace in the Baltics. It has been described as a catholic altar or shrine by some historians.

 

Stable and attic winch-wheel

Horse Stable was situated in the corner of the courtyard on the right to the Old Chapel. There was a round stone staircase in the stable. It was common to house servants and stable personnel on top of the stables. The staircase leads to the second floor apartments and to the attic.
All attic space in a medieval merchant house was dedicated to warehousing of goods. Our attic has an original winch-wheel that was used to hoist goods to the attic. Attic winch-wheel doors are common in Tallinn, but complete working rope winch-wheels are rare.

Additional documents

The well known historical novel "Kolme katku vahel" ("Between Three Plagues"/"Uppiniskaisuuden tarina") by Jaan Kross contains several references to our building. The main character, young Balthasar Russow, lives above the stables in the back of the courtyard. He cleans a lime-stone angel figure situated in the current Old Chapel. This angel figure actually existed. According to archived documents it was removed from the chapel during 1966 renovations. Current location is not known.

The history of our building is well documented in F. Amelung: "Revaler Alterthümer", Tallinn 1884.
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Transcription in German (Word document)

Our courtyard year 1966
Our courtyard year 2001
Old Chapel in 1966

 

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