History of the Medieval Days

Foto: Mats Õun / Revali Turniir Niguliste mäel 2018

‘A market like that had not been held on the Tallinn Town Hall Square for a long time. The initiative did justice to the early days with true Hanseatic town order and customs. It was fun for the town citizens as well as the organisers and has, today, become an integral part of the summer events in Tallinn.’

Today, the Medieval Days not only include the Market, but also a dimension that values history, world views, and culture.

The purpose of the Medieval Days, organised by the Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union, is to acknowledge the importance of the Medieval Old Town of Tallinn along with its beautiful architecture and traditions through handicraft, material culture, playfulness, medieval music, and spectacles. We wish to offer the joy of creativity to the organisers and the joy of participation to town citizens and tourists while using the platform to enhance national handicraft.

The XIX Medieval Days were held on 5–8 July 2018

The XIX Medieval Days hosted a Reval knight tournament on the Niguliste Hill, organised by Nordbug, an association of historical fighting. Competitors arrived from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Finland, and Israel. Visitors could enjoy performances by travelling musicians, fools, travelling actors, the Obscurus Orbis ensemble from Latvia, the Lathyrus Odoratus dance group, the chamber choir of Canorus, fools of the Carousel Company, the zither ensemble Lätte Veetallajad, the Rondo Danzante dance group from Kuressaare, the early music studio of Hopner House, and many more. Oomerteater gave a performance called Sekeldused Püha Jüri asjus (Confusion Over Saint George) in the Diele of the Hopner House (at Vanaturu kael 3). Hopner House organised the cultural programme.

Laureated craftsmen and outstanding participants:

Master woodworker Meelis Kihulane
Master knifemaker Juris Karaseves
Master bone carver Silja Reemet

The XVIII Medieval Days were held on 6–9 July 2017

The grand fair and the main programme of the Medieval Days were, once again, held at the Town Hall Square. After the opening, a parade moved from the Square to the knight tournament at the Small Coastal Gate Bastion. The idea and production of the Medieval tournament came from Ajateater, www.ajateater.ee

Every day, activities were organised on the Harju Hill, featuring a Medieval Village with craftsmen trading their goods, exciting workshops, and competitions. Evening concerts were performed at St. Catherine’s Church by Rondellus, an early music ensemble, and Triskele. The historical journey through the old town, guided by Jaak Juske, was a popular event among visitors. The cultural programme was organised by the Hopner House. For the first time, the Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood joined the Medieval Days.

Laureated craftsmen and outstanding participants:

The best craftsman – Küllike Tuvikene
The best exhibition – the Town Hall Pharmacy
The best product – drums by Trummikoda

The XVII Medieval Days were held on 7–10 July 2016

The craftsmen’s fair was, once more, organised at the Town Hall Square, along with a captivating programme. The Medieval Village operated on the Niguliste Hill. Ajateater organised the beloved and eagerly awaited knight tournament with horses and horsemen, sword fighters, and archers. www.ajateater.ee

The XVI Medieval Days were held on 9–12 July 2015

The main innovation in 2015 was the knight tournament, held as part of the Medieval Days at the Small Coastal Gate Bastion and organised by Ajateater. Idea and production – Anne Velt, Lars Uus & Ajateater.

The XV Medieval Days were held on 10–13 July 2014

The centre of the Medieval Days was the Town Hall Square that hosted the Medieval market and featured a stage with an authentic introductory programme. A Medieval Village operated on the Niguliste Hill, along with a bow tournament and a knight school for children. At the Towers Square, the main performer of the folk party was Bordo Sarkany from Hungary.

For the first time, the good folk at the Hopner House organised evening concerts, featuring Bordo Sarkany from Hungary and Rondellus, an early music ensemble.

The XIV Medieval Days were held on 4–7 July 2013

The event was opened on 4 July with a grand parade and festive speeches on the stage at the Town Hall Square, featuring a carnival at the Town Hall, and a joyous folk party at the Towers Square. For the first time, Ajateater participated at the Medieval Days, organising a colourful medieval carnival in cooperation with MTÜ Ajad ja Tavad at the Hopner House. A Medieval Market was held on the Town Hall Square, and the Medieval Village along with workshops of medieval handicraft operated on the Niguliste Hill.

The XIII Medieval Days in 2012

The XIII Medieval Days were opened in a whole new way. The opening celebrations along with a parade and an opening ceremony began in the evening, followed by entertainment for the town citizens and guests who arrived with invitations at the Town Hall Square. A joint parade led people to the Towers’ Square to listen to Auli, a Latvian ensemble, perform medieval music. Similar to the previous year, the Medieval Days featured a Master’s village on the Niguliste Hill.

Laureated craftsmen and outstanding participants:

Tatjana Jakovleva – a calligrapher at Tallinna Paber
Master of ancient jewellery – Merlin Lõiv
Master Hungarian ocarina maker – Julia

The XII Medieval Days in 2011

The XII Medieval Days were held with the support of Tallinn 2011, and the concurrent jewellery year made them more expansive than ever. A new dimension was given to the Niguliste hill, featuring a Medieval Village, or tents of Medieval craftsmen and their workshops. Attractions included the travelling barge builders, the house of dugout canoes, the house of jewellery, the house of textile, the house of leather, the house of soap, and the house of herbs. In addition, traditional workshops for children and the knight school.

Laureated craftsmen and outstanding participants:

Masters of the house of leather, led by Kristina Rajando
Masters of the house of jewellery Anne Roolaht and Harvi Varkki
Fighters of the Lonkava Hundi Koda (the House of the Limping Wolf)
Tohuvabohu crust works

The XI Medieval Days in 2010

New initiatives included the medieval evening and the Tallinn Flower Festival at the Towers Square. A large crowd of town citizens gathered to enjoy the medieval concert.

Another popular initiative was the medieval carnival at the Tallinn Town Hall: participation at the carnival was an event of the year for many visitors who made thorough preparations.

Laureated craftsmen and outstanding participants:

Master puppet builder – Anni Urb
Master tailor – Jana Wolke
The best workshop – Rändav Lodjaselts

The X Medieval Days in 2009

The tenth anniversary was celebrated in a relatively modest way, featuring the traditional events: the market, the children’s hill, the archery tournament, and the marzipan market. For the second time, the Medieval Days at the Tallinn Town Hall hosted a medieval carnival.

Laureated craftsmen and the most outstanding participants:

The best craftsman – Gyulmira Ibragimova, a Dagestani weaver on vertical looms
Beautiful goods and presentation – Nikolai Ivanov, a Latvian ceramist
A workshop for children – Natalja Litvinova

The IX Medieval Days were held on 10–13 July 2008

For the first time, the Medieval Market was named the Medieval Days, giving a wider dimension to the event through its name.

New innovations were introduced: the medieval carnival and the archery tournament at the Tallinn Town Hall. For the first time, the Town Hall Pharmacy joined the Medieval Days, educating people on herbal remedies and offering tired medieval pharmacist apprentices a release of tension. The audience very much enjoyed the spectacles Hirm ja arm vanas Tallinnas (Fear and Love in the Early Tallinn), performed by the Tammsaare Teater. Guest performers included Ballare, a Latvian early music ensemble, and De vandrande kvnterna from Sweden, along with craftsmen from Latvia and Hungary.

Laureated craftsmen and the most outstanding participants:

Eve Tiidolepp as the best craftsman
The Tulirebase Guild, praised for great goods
Millinery of the Katariina Guild for beautiful goods
Kango Tekstiil for great goods
Tammsaare Teater for creating a joyous atmosphere

The VIII Medieval Market in 2007

We continued introducing medieval trading traditions and carrying out an entertainment programme.

The VII Medieval Market was held on 6–9 July 2006

The audience were entertained by the Finnish Hovinarrit, the German Poeta Magica, Vello Vaher and the contortionist, the troubadours of Olde Hansa, fire-eaters, studio Musica Silentii, and the early music group of Kiili. The audience could watch or learn Medieval dances from the Folklore Society Leigarid, or participate in topical tours in the Old Town, led by young guides. A theatricalised performance featured the arrival of the entourage from the old Livonia in celebration of a sustainable and long-lasting marriage union between the royalties of Reval and Marienburg. With help from MTÜ Ajad ja Tavad, the Tammsaare Teater, Olde Hansa and the organisers, the celebrations included a wedding party that followed all the medieval traditions.
For the first time, the programme of the Market Days featured the Tallinna Kinomaja that played films of medieval themes, such as Surmatants (Danse Macabre), Reigi õpetaja (The Parson of Reigi), Saatana pisar (Teardrop of Evil), and Hundiseaduste aegu (Dog-Eat-Dog).

The VI Medieval Market in 2005

Laureated craftsmen and the most outstanding participants:

Küllike Tuvikene for fabrics prepared with wooden stamps
Virve Eviste for hand-made soap
Tiia Mets for medieval handicraft dolls
A Latvian craftsman for jewellery made of silver and bronze, inspired by ancient findings

The V Medieval Market in 2004

This Medieval Market in the Tallinn Old Town featured a new innovation: we hosted guests from Riga, a neighbouring Hanseatic town. In honour of the guests, one day of the Market Days was renamed the RIGA DAY. Two joyous concerts were performed by early music ensembles Ludus and Canto. Latvian craftsmen sold their goods at the fair.

Reval, a medieval club, invited visitors from Belarus, an energetic ensemble Starõi Olsa, who engaged the audience in lively dancing and cheering.

The IV Medieval Market in 2003

The Tallinn Old Town was decorated in Medieval garments in celebration of the fourth Medieval Market. Jesters, fools, travelling musicians and actors, merchants, craftsmen, beggars, and fancy ladies could be seen trading, performing, and carrying out their important everyday activities. Let us hereby name the musicians and entertainers who were an integral part of the Medieval Market: the early music ensemble Rondellus, performances by court fools, the belly dancers of Zahira, Tõnu Sepp and studio Musica Silentii, and the kind folk of Olde Hansa. A Medieval Market without them would be bland like a soup without salt!

The III Medieval Market in 2002

Featuring an increasingly larger number of craftsmen, masters and artist, who offered their own production: makers of felted hats Riina Maitus and Hilda Rütter, the Alvar Heiste smithery, the pottery whorl of ceramist Aivar Rumvold, and many other workshops were constantly surrounded by a fascinated audience. Medieval calligraphy was introduced by Heino Kivihall, a specialist of the field, while Katariina, a member of Reval, a medieval club, was busy spinning a yarn, and a numerologist entertained people in a black tent. Getting peckish, people could head to the fringe of the Square where a piglet was roasting on a spit. Catering also included salted herring, pickles, bannocks, and much more.

The II Medieval Market in 2001

A true medieval market operated in the Tallinn old town once again. For four days, the Town Hall Square and its surrounding streets were filled with performers in authentic clothing, starting from honourable noblemen and ladies to simple citizens, merchants, fools, and beggars.

The I Medieval Market in 2000

On the 30th day of June in 2000, a fair unlike any other was held at the Tallinn Town Hall Square. The event did justice to the olden days with true Hanseatic town order and customs. The participants had previously organised a special course at the (current) Tallinn School of Lifelong Learning named ‘Medieval elementary education’, featuring lecturers such as Jüri Kuuskemaa, Kustav-Agu Püüman, and many others.