Photo
Tiit Veermäe
Before After

Kiek In De Kök

I am the city’s most famous and tallest defensive tower, and was built according to the needs of the age of gunpowder.

Tall Hermann looks taller, but he is much skinnier, and besides, stands upon a high rock formation. What’s more, over 300 years ago, lots of earth was piled up around me, which buried my two bottom floors.

At first, I was called “the New Tower behind Boleman’s Sauna”, though by 1577 people were using the name Kyck in de Kaeken, and in 1696 we find the first mention of my current name, Kiek in de Kök, which in low German means “glance into the kitchen“. From my high sixth floor, one could see into the kitchens of the nearby residential buildings or see out to what a besieging enemy army was up to in their “kitchen”, or start- ing position, for instance, on Tõnismäe.

There were serious exchanges of fire during the Livonian War in January of 1577 when Ivan the Cruel’s forces surrounded the city and bombarded it with stone and iron shots from the place where St Karl’s church currently stands. The chronicler Balthasar Russow describes how the enemy’s tower fired day and night but couldn’t inflict any more serious damage “than a hole in one side of the wall so large that two bulls could walk through it side by side”. The approximate location of that dam- age could be seen later by the stone and iron shots that had been mortared into the wall.

Due to the construction of the bastions, about 12 metres of my height was buried. In the second half of the 18th century, my military significance waned, and I was handed over to the government. Among other things, vats of gunpowder were stored here, so I became known as the gunpowder tower. In the first half of the 19th century, there was an ice cellar in my lower floor. Czar Alexander II bestowed my ownership upon the church of St Karl, and its rooms were rented by a heavy sporting club, archival storage, and others. In the1880s, there were discussions about making me a water tower for Toompea. In the 1930s, considerations began around the possibility of converting me into a museum. The Finnish-Estonian writer Aino Kallas had a strong desire to come live here. In 1958 I was given to the Tallinn Municipal museum. During Soviet times, great photography exhibitions were organised here, so I was also called the Photo tower.

Currently, I am part of the museum of the city’s fortifications, along with the neighbouring towers. Through the wall pas- sages, one can get from here to the Stable and the Short Leg Gate Tower through the Maiden Tower, and back. It’s the city’s longest wall passage!

Construction history. This tower, built between 1475-1483 was 33/2 m high and with a diameter of 17.3 m was a defensive structure with a circular shape, whose walls are up to 4 metres thick. Its current height is 49.4 m, along with its massive two-ton defensive top which was added in the 17th century.