The story of renovation
Thoughts will be thoughts…
Since the Restoration of Independence in Estonia, the people of Tudulinna have been increasingly thinking about restoring the wooden church and finding a new function for it. Unfortunately, for a long time the church project had no manager, since it was considered too difficult and expensive, and there were no good ideas as to what to do with the church after renovation. As the years went by, the church gradually continued to fall apart. But it persisted, as it had for 250 years.
What if we try?
In the midsummer of 2017, people began to take action. From the beginning it was clear that there was no point in rebuilding a functioning church, since the other church (Church of Peace) currently used by the townspeople was located on the same hill. Lauri Väinmaa proposed the idea of establishing a non-profit organization with a goal to organize and coordinate the restoration process and then create a new life for the old church building.
Preparations for setting up a non-profit organization, formulating the NPO’s goals more precisely, drafting the statutes and introducing the idea more widely went by quickly..
On July 20th, 2017 at 5 pm, a number of enthusiastic locals gathered at the Tudulinna Community Centre. The aim was to make another (probably the last) joint attempt to save the old wooden church from ruin and help it thrive again. The known history of the church was introduced to those present. With the support of 14 ambitious enthusiasts, the NPO Tudulinna Kultuurikants was founded with the aim of restoring the wooden church externally and creating a multifunctional cultural centre. A five-member management board consisting of Lauri Väinmaa (Chairman), Aili Reiman, Merike Vaarmets, Annes Kingu and Andres Meresmaa was elected.
Already in September 2017, special conditions were received from the National Heritage Board for the restoration of the old church in Tudulinna. These were the starting points for the restoration project.
In October, the first major undertaking was the clean-up of the old church. More than twenty locals gathered to participate. Together, the church hall and the surrounding area were cleaned of debris, shrubs that began to grow around the exterior walls were removed and entrances were closed. The building’s “open door policy” had come to an end.
Let’s keep thinking
From the beginning, it was clear that there were two major challenges to be addressed: the restoration of the church and its subsequent maintenance. In January 2018, brainstorming sessions organized by the board of the NPO took place in the Tudulinna schoolhouse, attended by nearly 30 people, from Tartu, Tallinn, Rakvere and elsewhere. Together, we sought ideas to allow the old church to find a new sustainable function, finance restoration work, engage partners and attract wider interest. The brainstorming proved to be very substantial and the ideas put forward there have been used in the preparation of the action plan. Many great proposals are just waiting for the right moment.
Together is better
The church’s restoration is not just a hobby for a narrow interest group (NPO). The goal is to benefit the entire Tudulinna community. It was therefore decided to work with other locals and local organizations early on. The idea was realized in the form of a Goodwill Agreement (Hea Tahte Kokkulepe – HTK), which was concluded between Tudulinna Kultuurikants, the rural municipality of Alutaguse, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Tudulinna Church of Peace and Vana Veski NPO (Estonian for Old Mill). The contract was solemnly signed in front of the old church on June 10th, 2018, on the Day of Good Deeds.
During the same event, an information stand was opened for tourists introducing three historic building monuments on Linnamäe: Tudulinna Old Church, Tudulinna Church of Peace and the Tudulinna Möldri Farm Windmill.
A concert was held in the old church after more than 70 years, with the Oonurme mixed choir, kannel player Kristi Mühling and actress Tiina Tõnis performing.
Lights of Tudulinna
The first Tudulinna Lights Summer Festival was organized in August 2018 in cooperation with the Peipus Culinary Route Festival, during two days offering tourists the opportunity to visit the old church and hear stories about the history of the church and Tudulinna itself. There was a concert, featuring well-known guitarist Robert Jürjendal and painter Tõnu Talve created a painting inspired by the church and the mood of the festival. Folklorist Mall Hiiemäe talked about fire in folk traditions, and musicians from Iisaku sang and played folk songs with kannels. The evening ended with the first ever Fire of Ancient Light on Tudulinna Linnamägi. The proceeds of the festival went to support the restoration of the old church in Tudulinna.
Tudulinna Lights will be an annual summer event in Tudulinna. It is currently in a church that has not yet been renovated, but soon enough it will be made available to the community as a cultural centre.
Thoughts on paper
In the summer of 2019, a project for the restoration of the old church was begun by AS Zoroaster. It is based on the wishes and suggestions of the NPO Tudulinna Kultuurikants, the special conditions of the National Heritage Board and modern safety and technology requirements. According to the project, the restoration of the church building will see the tower’s exterior returned as close as possible to its pre-1939 appearance. The interior does not intend to restore the elements necessary for ecclesiastical activities (altar, pulpit, etc.), but to design a hall suitable for concerts, theatre performances, meetings and seminars and the display of museum exhibits.
Today, the old wooden church of Tudulinna is hopefully awaiting its rebirth. Please support the honourable building’s new life by donating to the Tudulinna Kultuurikants MTÜ EE522200221067794646.