Photo
Tiit Veermäe
Before After

Long Leg Gate Tower

The road leading up to Toompea was already here in the middle ages. In older times, it was even more narrow and steep.

Pikk jalg (Long leg) became the road for vehicles. The foot traffic moved between the higher and lower parts of the city via Lühike jalg (Short leg). It’s appropriate to remember here the old trick trivia question: Why does Tallinn walk with a limp? The answer, one leg is longer than the other! In the Danish years, the way was travelled on horseback, but during the Swedish reign, the traffic was comprised more and more of wagons and carts.

Although the road was widened at the end of the 18th cen- tury and was evened out as much as it could be, it must be said that during the reign of the Czar, the coachmen had to show the very best of their skills here and cry “look out!“ when descending toward the gate. The gate makes a dangerous bend, and its exit leads immediately onto the intersection of three busy roads. Many accidents have been seen here and the tragic loss of life has been witnessed. In the beginning, there wasn’t a gate on this road, but with the development of the lower town, the gate was estab- lished. This is where I start to come into play. Although the gate did not initially have a tower; one was soon construct- ed of wood so that the guards could keep a better eye on the passersby.

The thing is, the upper and lower parts of the town did not get along very well. The defensive wall that runs along the edge of Pikk jalg, which was completed in the 15th century, is also called the wall of distrust.In 1380, the ruler at the time, the master of the Order, finally gave the command to build me as a stone tower. I was given the noble name of Porta Longa Montis! There was still the condition, that if the men of the Order up there didn’t like the tower, that it was to be demolished.

The residents of the lower town closed the gate at 9 during the Order’s reign, but in the Swedish times, it closed at 10. In general, towards the end of the Czar’s rule, the gate was not closed, and the lower and upper parts of the city were finally united as a whole.

True, during the first Republic the gate was closed one more time! On the night of December 1st, when the communists tried to seize power, my gate was closed for the last time. Actually, if I search my more recent memories, there were the events in August of 1991, when the gate’s opening was closed, but not by its doors, which were long gone, but by huge cubes of granite. This was intended to keep the tanks from Pihkva from making their attack on Toompea. It was pretty frightening at Christmas time in 1995, when the building next to me went up in flames. I also caught fire and my top part burned out. But then I got a new roof and a windsock!

Other than watchmen, I also hosted all sorts of other people later. Although soldiers were living here in the 19th century, since the time of the first Estonian Republic, artists have favoured this place as a studio and as a living space. I have hosted such a long line of artists that I probably couldn’t even mention all their names. Well, I might try: some of the first ones were the artists Ludvig Oskar and Ernst Hallop, but there has also been the sculptor Juhan Raudsepp, paint- ers Märt Bormeister and Olev Subbi, the children’s author and artist Edgar Valter, painter Valdur-Olev Ohakas, graphic designer Peeter Ulas, landscape painter Oskar Ludvig, metal artists Heino Müller and Tõnu Lauk, artist, architect, and poet Leonhard Lapin and the art historian Juhan Maiste. Heinz Valk was once thoroughly frightened when upon waking up from an afternoon nap; he noticed an entity hovering in the silence, which was apparently a ghost.

Construction history. The 11-metre high stone gate tower was built in 1380 and raised to a height twice as high in 1450 (20 m). The upper part of the tower was renovated in 1608.