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29/06/2005Historic Hanseatic church reopens in Estonia
29 June 2005
TARTU, ESTONIA - The historic St. John's Church in the Estonian city of Tartu that dates back to the days when the city was a Hanseatic port was reopened on Wednesday.
Estonian leader Arnold Ruutel and German President Horst Koehler praised the restoration of the church, known as the Jaani Church in Estonia, as a "sign of a living partnership".
The first foundations for the church were laid in the 13th century, but historians are divided over whether a pagan temple or Christian church first stood at the site.
Founded by Germans when the city was known as Dorpat, the church burned down at the end of World War II and lay in ruins during the Soviet occupation of Estonia.
At the end of the 1980s as the independence movements in the Baltic states were increasing in strength, private citizens, churches and government institutions came together to rebuild the church.
At Christmas in 1999, a service was once again held in St. John's after a EUR 9 million restoration.
Many of the fixtures were donated by German churches, including an organ from St. Nicholas' in Kiel. The church in the German Hanseatic port of Luebeck donated EUR 1 million.
Tartu/Dorpat used to be a vital link in trade between Luebeck and Russia.
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