St Catherine's Lutheran Church in Võru

The town of Võru was founded in 1784 by the will of Empress Catherine II. In 1788 the inhabitants of county town Võru turned to Catherine II with the request to receive permission to build a Lutheran church. The permission was received and Catherine II donated 28 000 silver roubles to build the church, donations were collected also from voluntary donators. Inauguration of the church took place on July 24th 1793. The church was named Saint Catherine's Church in the honor of Empress Catherine. 
St. Catherine's church is relatively ordinary looking with one nave. Exterior of the church resembles to other worshiping buildings of that time in the Baltic county towns. We can see large arched windows in recess surfaces, foreparts, which are marked with rusticated lisenes etc. However the church tower is different from the aforementioned type: each facet has a clock face under the segmental pediment, decorative motives are similar to architecture in Riga, which gives ground to speculation that the church has been designed by architect Christoph Haberlandt of Riga. 
In 1858 the church tower was struck by lightning, the cross fell sidelong and ran through all of the nave up to the altar spoiling the gilded frame of the altarpiece. No fire broke out. One of the biggest capital repairs of the late baroque building which, has strong characteristics of early classicism was carried out in 1879 when the tower got new spire and four digit horologe. But in April 18th 1887 a new lightning storm swept over the town and this time the lightning caused fire in the tower. Major repair works have been carried out also in 1900, 1934, 1957-1958. 
Church bells have been changed in several occasions: first time in 1860, then 1932. Existent steel bells were made in Germany, in the town of Bochum in 1931. Historically there's been a tradition to write something on the bells - message for the people. Larger bell with diameter 1,2 m, weight 850 kg, scaling fa-diesis, has a text cast on it saying, "From the deepest deepness I call for you Jehovah! My Lord hear my voice, may your ears here the voice of my begging!" Smaller bell (diameter 1,016 m, weight 460 kg, scaling la) wears a text saying, "May peace be with you!" 
Inside the church is divided into main room (23,7x10,74 m, height 6,35 m) and two secondary rooms. Starting from 1860 the altar area has arched shape. Altarpiece Golgotha is painted by F. Bognatc`in 1855 in St. Petersbourg and it represents Jesus Christ on the cross. The painting was donated to the congregation by Mrs. Bourkoff, wife of General Bourkoff. 
Choral gallery situated opposite the altar with its existent shape dates back to 1934. Organ situated on the choral gallery was constructed in 1913 by three brothers - Tannil, Juhan and Jakob Kriisa, it was their seventh organ. Organ has been complemented and repaired in several occasions. Funds for the organ was raised from donations and benefit nights (organ nights on old organ). 
The Church took also part from Liberation War - in 1919 the remains of captain F. Wreeman, hero of Liberation War, rested here before the burial, in April there was an army lookout in the church tower. After the Liberation War the church was electrified, new heating system was installed and several repair works were carried out. 
Up to World War II there was both Estonian and German congregation at the church, after 1940 the sermons in German language were cancelled. Church escaped from World War II with little damage, missile, which fell through the roof, didn't explode and the broken windowpanes (368 pieces) were replaced with new ones, organ was repaired and by 1949 the war wounds were healed. Organist of Võru's St. Catherine's Church has been for many years Paul-Walter Elken, who is more known to the people of Võru as art and music teacher. 
Since 1981 Andres Mäevere has been the priest of Võru congregation. 
Additional information:


Source: Visit Võru