Tiit Veermäe
Before After

The Long Leg Gate Tower


In the olden days, it was thought that Long Leg had previously functioned as a road. This is most likely not the case. Ancient Estonians reached the top of the uplands from where today the Toompea Road rises from the Charles’ Church and Long Leg which was initially narrower and steeper and it became became a road to drive up or down.

It was possible to move between the upper and lower town on foot along the Short Leg. Here, it is fun to ask a quiz question: Why is the city of Tallinn limping? and the answer is: Because one leg is longer than the other!

During the period of the Danish order, transport here was by horseback which had started during the Swedish period, increasingly using horse and carriages. The road, which was widened at the end of the 18th century and also leveled, required coachmen to use their greatest skills here, still during the tsarist period and while descending towards the gate, they would call out CAUTION in a very loud voice: At this point the gate exits into a rather dangerous curve and immediately leads to three intersecting, crowded streets. Accidents have happened here and tragic deaths have been occurred. The early version of this road did not originally have a gate, which was installed during the shaping of the Old Town. This is where I start to come into play, though perhaps there was initially no tower above the gate, soon a wooden tower was constructed on top of the gate, where watchmen could keep a better eye on the traffic.

The upper and lower town did not get along well with each other at all. The defensive wall which was completed along the edge of Long Leg Street in the 15th century, has also been called “the wall of mistrust”. The governor, master of the order, gave permission to construct me as a stone tower finally in 1380. I was given the proud name of “Porta Longa Montis”! And a condition was if the men of the order do not like the tower, I must be demolished.

The lower townsmen closed the gate during the order period at nine o clock each evening and during the Swedish period, at ten o’clock. The gate was generally left open towards the end of the tsarist period and the upper and lower town were finally connected as a unified city. It is true that during the time of the first Republic of Estonia, the gate was closed one more time. Namely, my gate was closed for the last time on the night of 1 December 1917 when the communists attempted to seize power. The gate was also closed during the events of the 1991 August coup, but then not using the gate doors, which no longer existed, but a large granite cube. This would help to stop the possible intrusion of the Pskov military tanks path to Toompea. It was a scary time at Christmas in 1995, when a fire broke out here in the next building. I, too, burned from my top, but luckily I survived and afterwards I was given a new roof and a lovely wind vane.

Apart from the tower watchmen I have been home to all kinds of people. Soldiers lived here in the 19th century, beginning from the first period of the Republic of Estonia, and the tower was used as a studio as well as a place of residence by artists. I have hosted so many artists it is not possible to read them all out. However, among the first were artists like Ludvig Oskar and Ernst Hallop, the sculptor Juhan Raudsepp, painters Märt Bormeister and Olev Subbi the children’s author and artist Edgar Valter, painter Valdur-Olev Ohakas, graphic artist Peeter Ulas, metal artists Heino Müller and Tõnu Lauk, architect and poet Leonhard Lapin, as well as the art historian, Juhan Maiste. Heinz Valk was thoroughly frightened here once, when he witnessed a floating figure, which presumably was a ghost, after an after-lunch nap.