Tiit Veermäe
Before After

Fat Margaret and The Great Coastal Gate


I am the most famous landmark among the towers of our city. I do not remain unnoticed for those approaching from the sea.

I am not as tall as some of the other towers or churches, but I make up for it by being large and stout. There is no doubt that I am the stoutest in this city and have the thickest walls. I was built together with the new Great Coastal gates foregate, as well as the zwinger – or side defensive wall – which extended to the Stolting Tower. The stonemason and construction master who designed the coat of arms on the gate and the defensive structures of the complex, was Gert Koningk. I have had many names throughout history. When I was first completed 500 years ago, I was called the Round Tower. Later, I was called the New Tower of the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden was a public garden where city folk who had come along the Pikk Street had picnics and watched the hustle and bustle of the harbour. The Rosenkrantz name was given to me at the end of the 17th century. It was transferred to me from the cannon tower of the Toompea wall and gate which was buried in the earthworks of the Swedish Bastion, and no longer required a name.

It is believed that I was christened Fat Margaret in the second half of the 19th century by the bored Russian sailors who were sitting around off port. It has been said that I am like a “mother with child” – referencing the small tower beside me on the other side of the Great Coastal Gate. It is, however, older than I am! I am connected to the foregate of the Great Coastal Gate with a passageway on the third floor. At one time, the gate also had a portcullis which was preserved for a long time, until the fire of 1917.

According to legend, I am also the lover of Tall Hermann. It is believed for some reason that I am female. I, to note more seriously, have been the most powerful cannon tower of this city and a great centre of arms. My defensive complex consisted of a total of 32 gun ports for cannons and 124 ports for handheld firearms. My diameter extends to 25 metres. The strongest part of me is the wall of the lower floor which is 5.1 metres thick, yet the thickness of the foundation even extends to 6 metres. The thickness of my wall, which is a closely guarded secret, is only slightly over one metre thick on the south side. The interior diameter of the lower floor is 12.5 metres, so the area of the space significantly exceeds 110 square metres.

In June, 450 years ago, the war brought the united fleet of Denmark and Lübeck in to the Bay of Tallinn. The fleet consisted of 30 military ships under the command of Admiral Munck. The Danes set fire or hijacked all of the 150 ships that were moored in the harbour. Their reasoning was that Sweden and Reval were presumed to have tried to block the trade of goods in Narva between Denmark and Moscow. Cannons were also fired from the ships towards the city. I then had the opportunity to give an even stronger counterattack!

During the construction of the bastions, earth mounds were piled up against me, some of which have been demolished. The crumbling towers of the gate complex were also demolished. I became an ammunition warehouse during the Tsarist period. A prison was opened here in 1830 and in 1877 I was reconstructed as a barrack. I was later attached to a stone building that became the city prison. In February 1917, I was engulfed in fire – flames flew from all doors, windows, and other openings.

During the period of the first Republic of Estonia, I wanted to be turned into a cinema or a dance club with a revolving floor and finally to become storage for wood. Over time, a new idea emerged. The idea of the Museum of History started to be realised. The City Museum has operated here, directly attached to me, but foremost I am currently known now as a Maritime Museum. In time for the Moscow Olympic Games, Polish restorers built a roof for the circular courtyard of the tower, where trees had been growing until 1978. It is now possible again to see the city and the sea from my rooftop cafe.