Stamps of 2023: Estonia (January 2023)

Jan. 6, 2023

St. Elizabeth’s Church in Pärnu

On January 6, Omniva issued AS Eesti Post’s first stamp of 2023 picturing St. Elizabeth’s Church in Estonia’s fourth largest city, Pärnu, located 80 miles (128 km) south of the Estonian capital, Tallinn. A popular summer holiday resort town among Estonians, the original settlement of Perona (Alt-Pernau in German and Vana-Pärnu in Estonian) was founded by the bishop of Ösel–Wiek circa 1251 but was destroyed around 1600. Another town, Embeke (Neu-Pernau or Uus-Pärnu) was founded by the Livonian Order, who began building an Ordensburg nearby in 1265.

Aerial view of Pärnu, Estonia, photographed by Kristian Pikner on May 30, 2016.

The latter town, then known by the German name of Pernau, was a member of the Hanseatic League and an important ice-free harbor for Livonia. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took control of town between 1560 and 1617; the Poles and Lithuanians fought the Swedes nearby in 1609. Sweden took control of the town during the 16th-century Livonian War as part of Swedish Livonia, although it was not formally ceded by Poland-Lithuania until the 1660 Treaty of Oliva. Sweden then lost Livonia to the Russian Empire in the 1710 Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia and the 1721 Treaty of Nystad, following the Great Northern War. It belonged to the Imperial Russian Governorate of Livonia until 1917, when it was transferred to the short-lived Autonomous Governorate of Estonia. The city is occasionally referred to as Pyarnu, an incorrect reverse-transliteration from the Russian Пярну.

The town became part of independent Estonia in 1918 following World War I and the Estonian War of Independence. It was occupied by the Soviet Red Army along with the rest of Estonia in 1940 during World War II and its German population fled. It was briefly occupied by Germany from 1941 until 1944 before it was reoccupied by the Soviet Union during its counteroffensives. Pärnu then continued as being part of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1944 to 1991, when Estonia restored its independence.

The Lutheran St. Elizabeth’s Church traces its foundation to 1741 when the Russian empress Elizabeth donated 8,000 rubles for the construction of a new church in Pärnu. Construction started in 1744 and the building was finished in 1747 under the guidance of master builder J. H. Güterbock from Riga. The spire, finished somewhat later in 1750, was designed by J. H. Wülbern, who also designed the spire for St. Peter’s Church in Riga.

St. Elizabeth’s Church, Pärnu, Estonia, photographed on December 9, 2021.

The resulting building is considered one of the finest ecclesiastical baroque buildings in Estonia, characterized by its relatively grand proportions and simplicity of decoration. Later additions include the neo-Gothic interior decoration and the south transept, designed by another architect from Riga, Häuserman, in 1893. The church was reconsecrated on October 19, 1893. The altarpiece, depicting the resurrection, is a work from the Netherlands, made in Rotterdam in 1854. The organ dates from 1929 and is reputedly one of the finest in Estonia. In 1995, a further extension was added to the church, designed by Estonian architect Ra Luhse.

On February 24, 1918, the day after the Estonian Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of Endla Theatre in Pärnu, pastor Johannes Hasselblatt recited the Declaration of Independence at a church service in St. Elizabeth’s Church. Exactly 100 years later, one of his successors commemorated the event by reading out the Declaration of Independence in the church.

The new stamp was designed by Riho Luuse. There were 20,000 copies printed by AS Vaba Maa using offset lithography in sheets of ten stamps, each one measuring 27.5 x 33.0 mm and perforated 13¾ x 14. It has a face value of €0.90.

One thought on “Stamps of 2023: Estonia (January 2023)

  1. Pingback: Stamps of 2023: Monthly Wrap-Up (January) | Mark Joseph Jochim

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