The House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads
Guild house, Tallinn
Owner: Tom Wright 1964
Riga - The House of Blackheads in the Old Town or Vecriga
Owner: Yen Baet
House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads
Owner: Simon Downham
House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads
The House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads
The Brotherhood of the Blackheads is thought to be built in 1399, yet there is a version that its beginning can reach the middle of the 14th century. The brotherhood‘s function was to unite the young, unmarried merchants and ship owners before they could be accepted to the Great Guild. The earliest sign of Brotherhood’s existence is found in the original document dated of 28th March, 1400. As the Brotherhood’s patron they had chosen Saint Mauritius. Saint Mauritius was the black martyr. He lived in thr 3rd century and belonged to the Theban Legion members of which were Christians. Story tells that an uprising came after an order to legionnaires to participate in the pagan rituals yet according to other version the members of the Theban Legion refused to chasten Christians as Christianity became legal only in 325 in the Roman Empire. St. Mauritius and two other officers encouraged the whole Legion not to obey to the unacceptable orders and so the Legion was executed. On the coat of arms of the Brotherhood the fragment of St. Mauritius head is depicted. The Blackheads were active in Estonia and Latvia but it is unknown if they played any role in the rest of Europe. It is known, that members of the Brotherhood left Tallinn in 1940s.
In 1561 Tallinn became a province town of the Swedish Kingdom and in 1710 during the Northern War Tallinn became a province town of tsarist Russia. Tallinn’s life changed comparing it with the times when Tallinn was a medieval hanseatic town. After the occupation the great importance of the close combat to protect the honor of the Brotherhood and the pride of the warrior himself was lost. At this time the Brotherhood of the Blackheads became more important as a social organization. The Brotherhood was arranging concerts, they were organizing artistic events and parties. In the 18th and the 19th centuries important guests from Tallinn often used to be hosted in the guildhall of the Brotherhood. The guildhall was tought to be one of the most unique buildings in Tallinn for its interior design and customs which were practiced there.
The Brotherhood also had its cavalry with a specific uniform until 1887. In 1895 the Brotherhood got the status of “Club”. The Brotherhood lasted until the Soviets occupation in 1940, after which it was annihilated. Many members of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads went to Germany. In 1961 the Brotherhood was officially registered in Hamburg. It is continuing to survive till nowadays.
This building is exceptional because it is the only one preserved Renaissance building in Tallinn. The facade was renovated in Dutch renaissance style in 1597. One of the most impressive details in Tallinn is the door of the House of Brotherhood of Blackheads which is about 360 years old. In Latvia and Estonia the Black Heads had 20 buildings. The Black Heads had their buildings in more than 20 towns, including Tallinn, Parnu and Tartu. This is a unique phenomenon because no other European country had this kind of brotherhood till 17th century.
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