The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, with its famous ‘onion domes’, is certainly one of The Old Town’s most famous ‘postcard pictures’. Its association with the Estonian capital is very ironic, however, considering it was built during the reign of Alexander III (1845–1894) and is actually a symbol of the Russian Tsar’s attempt to phase-out Estonian culture through Russification.
Estonian folklore states that while the Russians were digging in Toompea to lay the foundations for this iconic cathedral, they stumbled across the tomb of Kalev – a mythological king in ancient Estonia, father of Kalevipoeg. The workers dug so deep into Toompea Hill that they struck an iron door, upon which was inscribed:
“Dammed be everyone who dares disturb my peace”
Some of the workers were understandably nervous after reading this and pressure to abandon the build began to mount. These superstitious fears were quickly dashed by those in charge, however, and construction continued regardless of the warning on the side of the tomb. By 1900, the cathedral was built.
Almost immediately the church became plagued with structural deficiencies; huge cracks began to emerge in the walls and a total collapse was feared in the early 20th century. Although the majority of Russians blamed poor workmanship and inefficient planning, some believe that Kalev’s curse still lingers over the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Even today, scaffolding is a very common sight among the ‘onion domes’ of this cursed church.