For 180 years a church has stood on Vene St. in Tallinn one of oldest monuments to Orthodoxy in the land of Estonia, and throughout this time the grace of God, through the prayers of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, archbishop of Myra in Lycia, has preserved it.
In his book The Orthodox Church in Estonia His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia writes that «the history of Orthodoxy in Estonia is an integral part of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy has never been here the dominant religion, yet its importance goes way beyond meaningless statistics. It was not the number of believers that has become the determining factor but the remarkable effect that Orthodoxy had on the spiritual life of Estonians, no matter what their confessional allegiance now. Orthodoxy has a special place in the historical destinies of the entire Baltic region where it came into direct contact and conflict with Catholicism and Protestantism and where the three Christian confessions manifested themselves in one and the same circumstances and in relations with each other. Here throughout several centuries many tasks were solved which nowadays have become particularly relevant and acute, now on a universal level…»
History has not retained any information of how and when Christianity was engendered in the Baltic region. However, it is known that the shores of the severe Baltic Sea were taken over by merchants from Novgorod and Pskov. Since the time of Prince Yaroslavl the Wise the churches built on the trade routes to Scandinavia and Europe were an integral part of Russian spiritual culture. The oldest Orthodox parish in Tallinn of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia also has its roots in an ancient trading court set up by Novgorod merchants. The first written mention of an Orthodox church in Tallinn goes back to 1371.
After the end of the Northern War and the annexation of the former Swedish province to the Russian Empire, the Russian population of Revel increased greatly, and the old wooden church on Vene St. became too small for the growing number of parishioners. In 1822 there was laid the foundation for the stone church of St. Nicholas, and on 14 August 1827 the solemn consecration of the altar took place.
According to tradition, the relics of Metropolitan Arseny (Matskevich, 1696-1772) of Rostov are located underneath the ambo of the main sanctuary of the Church of St. Nicholas. Metropolitan Arseny had been exiled to Revel by Empress Catherine II for his resistance to the transfer of monastery property into the state treasury. The bishop spent his last days in a prison cell in one of the fortress towers and went to the Lord on 28 February 1772. The same evening he was buried by the north wall of the wooden Church of St. Nicholas. When the stone church was built, the grave of the metropolitan was to be found inside the church under the sanctuary. The holy hierarch Arseny is numbered among the saints of Rostov and the saints of the Land of Estonia. His memory is kept on 13 March.
The Church of St. Nicholas on Vene St. was the first building in the city with a cupola built in strict accordance with classicism. The majority of the icons of the iconostasis of the main sanctuary have survived from the nineteenth century. Also worthy of attention is the church bell tower, the oldest bell of which was cast in 1642.
At present the rector of the church is Archpriest Oleg Vrona. One of the special features of worship in the church is the unusually beautiful singing of the choir, the director of which since 1989 has been Igor Vrona, who graduated from the Voronezh Conservatoire. The second choir director is Nina Kolosova, who graduated from the musical teacher-training institute in Kazakhstan.
The choir has participated in competitions in various European countries. One of the most noticeable testimonies of its success was its winning first prize at an international competition in Italy in 1998. Worthy preparation for this event were constant choral events in Estonia, as well as performances in Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. The choir took first place at the XIII International Festival of Orthodox Music in Bialystok, Poland, in May 2004. Two music discs have been issued. At the parish"s initiative and under the direction of the choirmaster Igor Vrona international Christmas and Paschal festivals of music take place in Estonia.
The listener"s attention is drawn to the third disc recorded by the choir of the Church of St. Nicholas in Tallinn. The disc offers selected hymns of worship both authorial works of religious music and Znamenny chant, astounding in its beauty and originality, Georgian and
Kievan chants, as well as melodies of Valaam Monastery, Optina Hermitage and Byzantine melody of the fifteen century.