Although executions were not uncommon in olden times, there was a law that forbid any from taking place in The Old Town. Instead, the condemned prisoner would be paraded around the Town Hall Square for all to see before being lead down Harju Street towards their place of execution. As such, Harju Street became known as ‘the last road’ for those sentenced to death.
Unlike today, Harju Street used to be packed densely with houses and thus was far more slender and enclosed. Hidden between two of the houses houses was a very narrow street called Trepi that lead away from Harju and into St Nicholas Church.
It was said that if a criminal could repent his sins from the bottom of his heart before he was lead down ‘the last road’ that he would be given divine revelation and would miraculously find a way to sefety through Trepi Street – escaping through ‘the eye of the needle’. Only a tiny handful of people actually managed to slip away unnoticed but legend has it that everyone who did so went on to live very spiritual and pious lives.
Despite the fact that this street was a victim of intense bombing campaigns during World War II and his been re-built almost countless times, the Estonians have maintained The Eye of the Needle as a homage to this legend and to the ideas of repentance and reformation.