House of the Blackheads

Tallinn, Estonia | C.1517

Photo Credit: Mark Williams

The Brotherhood of Blackheads (Estonian: Mustpeade vennaskond) is an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners that was active in Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia) from the mid-14th century till 1940 but still remains active in present day Hamburg.

While founded as a military organization the non-military aspects of the association gradually became more pronounced until the Brotherhood became a predominantly social organization after the end of the Great Northern War.

Interesting to note, 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.

The House of the Blackheads (Estonian Mustpeade maja), or House of the Brotherhood of Black Heads, in Tallinn, is one of the former headquarter locations.

The building was acquired by the organization in 1517 and was renovated under supervision of the architect Arent Passer in 1597. The façade was rebuilt in the style of Renaissance architecture from the Low Countries.

The painted door dates from the 1640s and a Maure, a symbol of Saint Maurice, the patron saint of the Brotherhood, appears both carved in wood and sculpted in stone above the door.

Today the hall is used for concerts and other gala occasions.

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