Tourism / Museums and Estates / Vao stronghold tower-museum

Eesti Vabariik 100
Georg Lurich
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Vao stronghold tower-museum

The Tower

According to the history of Estonian architecture, there were many tower strongholds in Estonia as early as the 14th century. They were built to safeguard roads and waterways, particularly in areas where large strongholds were not needed. These smaller strongholds were built by vassals in the second half of the 14th century as they began relocating from towns and fortified centers closer to the land for which they were responsible. Uprising of subordinated peasants was a significant factor in the increase in the number of stronghold towers, which were only intended to provide sufficient protection from smaller attacks. The building of stronghold towers intensified after the uprising of St. Georg's Eve in 1343, when many estates in northern Estonia were destroyed. Most of the towers built during this period have been destroyed, leaving only ruins. The only towers in Estonia that are well preserved and restored are those of Vao and Kiiu.

Cross-section of Vao tower-fortressThe Vao tower fortification is situated on a high slope at the edge of the previous Vao manor estate. In the valley there is a small stream originating from the nearby Mõisamaa Springs, which is the beginning of the River Põltsmaa.
The stairway inside the wallThe Vao Tower is a square building made of local limestone. The tower has four levels, the two lower of which are vaulted. The stronghold is architecturally interrelated with the development of northern Estonia, especially Tallinn. Judging by the thickness of the walls, the stronghold was not meant for bigger military operations. There is no data about military action in the tower.

Washing area-LavatoryThe tower was the vassal's permanent living quarters, evidenced by a dansker, a washing area, a chapel and a fireplace on the ground floor level.
The cellar is connected with the ground floor by a narrow staircase in the wall. Originally, it is likely to have been the only way to the cellar of the stronghold where the munitions, as well as the provisions, were held. The top floor was the guard tower.
In 1986, the stronghold was restored under the leadership of the Vao collective farm. The Rakvere branch of the Republican Restoration Department performed the restoration work.

Wacke coat-of-arms (by Anne Ehasalu)The Manor Estate

The first written information about the Vao Estate and the village dates from 1442. At that time the lands belonged to the de Wacks, giving the area and estate its German name, Wack, and its Estonian name, Vao.
Rennenkampff coat-of-arms (by Tuuli Puhvel)Subsequent to the ownership by the de Wacks, the estate belonged to the Wedeweses in the 16th century, then to the Budbergs, the Anreps, the Pahlens and the Helffreichs.
In the first half of the 18th century, the Rennenkampff family acquired the estate and began construction of the "heart" of the estate according to an estate plan. The Rennenkampffs retained ownership of the estate until the family resettled in Germany in 1939.

Exhibition of the history of the manor house
The Tower Museum

1991 - 1997 acted Vao Museum on Janis Tobreluts own initiative. In 1998, the new exposition in cooperation with the Väike-Maarja Museum took place.
Fireplace room on the inhabited floorThe museum provides information about the tower, estate and the history of the villages around the estate. There are photographs of the progression of the restoration process and coat of arm which belonged to the families that lived at Vao. Vitrage There is greater detail provided about the Rennenkampff family, the last Baltic Germans to live at the estate.
The first floor of the stronghold has a medieval air - in the middle of the room is a table with chairs covered with the skin of boar. The walls and ceiling have metallic foring lamps. Stained vitraged made in 1998-2002 decorate the room.
On the walls of the top floor of the tower there are pictures representing people in medieval costumes (author Eve Veermäe).

Vao tower-museum
Is opened:  2. may - 31. august from wednesday to sunday 11.00-18.00, in other times - booking
Phone: +372 32 61 625 Väike-Maarja Museum
Ticket: 2 eur, for students 1 eur