Attractions & museums
House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads in Tallinn, Estonia
Photo by: Merlen Aringo
House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads in Tallinn, Estonia

    House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads

    This beautiful, Renaissance-style guild hall is truly a star among Old Town's architectural treasures.

    Just one look at the hall from the outside, especially its intricately-decorated, red, green and gold door, is enough to explain why it's a regular feature on every Tallinn postcard stand. The interior is also a must-see.

    This was the historic home of the Brotherhood of Black Heads, a medieval guild made up of young, single merchants and foreigners. The guild's patron saint was the Moorish St. Mauritius - a profile of his head is pictured on the Brotherhood's coat of arms. The Brotherhood itself, which arose sometime around 1399, was active only in Estonia and Latvia, and never took hold in the rest of Europe. It is interesting to note that among the brotherhood's duties in medieval times was putting Tallinn's Christmas tree on Town Hall Square each year. Records show that the activity started at least as far back as 1441, making Tallinn the first city in Europe to have the tradition of a public Christmas tree.

    A 14th-century residential building probably occupied this site when the Black Heads bought up the property in the early 1500s. They immediately installed a new hall with an archless ceiling, but the serious rebuilding got underway in 1597 when the Dutch Renaissance façade, with its profusion of ornaments and carved decorations, was added. The eye-catching front door dates to 1640. Inside you can see a two-naved, vaulted hall, which bought from the neighbouring St. Olav's Guild and dates to the 15th century. 
    The building is frequently used for concerts and other gala occasions, and naturally any event held here will take on a timeless quality.

    Entrance only with Tallinn Card (free of charge).
    Closed during concerts and other events.
    Share

    TripAdvisor® Traveler Reviews

    TripAdvisor logo tripadvisor rating 4.0 of 5

    based on 95 reviews

    • Interesting

      tripadvisor rating 4 of 5
      August 11, 2019 By axola2009

      One of the most icónics buildings in Riga, it’s worth a visit. Although it is usually crowded, it’s worth a visit.

    • Interesting Building, Interesting History

      tripadvisor rating 4 of 5
      July 21, 2019 By wendyanddavid536

      A lovely building in the centre of the Old Town, the House of the Blackheads was closed when we were there, but there is a board outside explaing its history and that of the Tallinn Brotherhood of... Read more comments

    • Not worth inside

      tripadvisor rating 3 of 5
      July 14, 2019 By Dan2014

      Great to see from the outside but I don’t think it’s worth the money it cost to go inside. Does provide you with background to the use of the building and the Blackheads and you get too see the main... Read more comments