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Leesi church, consecrated to St. Catherine, was built between the years 1865-67 as a successor to the Juminda chapel. A new chapel building erected in Loksa a little earlier (1853) served as a model for the new church. Both Leesi and Loksa served as the seaside auxiliary churches for the Kuusalu Congregation. This is why the local speak still often calls them chapels, though the congregations have been independent for several decades now.

The story of how the old Juminda chapel and the new church were built is told in the song sheet printed for the 50th birthday of Leesi church. According to the tale, the first chapel stood on the tip of Cape Juminda and ships rarely passed without the sailors coming to the hill, thanking God in the chapel and placing their gifts in the collection box. It is not known when the chapel was built, but it was already so old by 1678 that a new chapel had to be built. That same year it was erected in the village of Juminda, but in a different place. The cost for the next chapel was born by Gustaw Otto Stenbock who was then the Count of Kolga. However, by 1865 this chapel was also too old as its walls and towers had long leaned out of right angles and people were afraid to enter during stormy weather.

The congregation had to contemplate building a new chapel. The initial meetings could not decide where to erect the building. Eastern villages on the peninsula rooted for Juminda, western villages supported Leesi. In the end, the majority leaned towards the village of Leesi and the cornerstone for the current chapel was laid on May 15, 1865. Construction lasted for almost 18 months. The old Juminda chapel hosted its last Holy Communion on September 17, 1867 and on October 1, Eastern Harjumaa dean Berg consecrated the new Leesi chapel in the presence of several other reverends as the House of the Lord.

Dean Woldemar Friedrich Kentmann has written in the church chronicles that the Leesi chapel was built according to the plans of the new Loksa chapel, but with smaller dimensions. The chapel erection was said to have cost 750 roubles in cash, including 150 roubles for organ construction. Much of this was collected through voluntary donations and 200 roubles were given by the help fund of the Evangelic Lutheran congregations. Count Stenbock provided the materials, bought a used organ for 100 roubles and paid the salary of one mason for the first year of construction. On the day of consecration, the congregation still had a debt of about 100 roubles.

The slightly rising road that takes to the Leesi church stairs, hidden behind the ancient linden trees, traverses through a long stretch of the Leesi cemetary – the church is built in the northeastern corner of the village graveyard. After entering the limestone building through the lobby under the tower, the visitor arrives in a single rectangular room that has a horizontal wooden ceiling and is illuminated by relatively wide, slightly upward curving window holes. There is no separate choir and no sacristy. The organ, built in 1905 by Gustav Terkmann (Targamaa), the organ master with Estonian roots, is not located on the western balcony, but in front of the men’s pew section, its flank towards the audience. The organ has one manual, one pedal and 8 organ stops.

Next to the northern wall, on the same line as the organ, is the colorful pulpit that has space for the carved figures of Jesus Christ and three Evangelists in its side niches. This Early Baroque pulpit had been in the old Harju-Jaani church that was demolished in 1864 and traveled to the Leesi chapel as a benevolent donation by a neighboring congregation – albeit having undergone reconstruction and missing its abat-voix and artfully finished base. The figure of the fourth Evangelist (Matthew) is still in Harju-Jaani. Maybe this joinery and carving work, finished in 1646, was made in the workshop of Tobias Heintze, the most renowned Tallinn master of that time?

The first altarpiece in the new church was “Christ on the Cross”, an oil painting on wooden panel from the end of the 17th century or the beginning of the 18th century, that probably belonged to the former Juminda chapel. When the pseudo-Gothic altar wall was installed in 1884 the old altarpiece was replaced by a twopiece canvas “Save me, Lord!” (upper section depicting Christ on the cross), painted by Theodor Albert Sprengel (1832-1900), a painter and drawing teacher from Tallinn. This storyline from the Gospel of Matthew 14, 28-31, where drowning Peter clings to the hand of his Savior in the life-threatening fury of the sea waves, was a particular favorite in coastal chapels. The canvas “Christ on a Cross”, approximately as old as the former altarpiece, bears the author’s signature Tõno Mick and is also from Juminda chapel.

The oldest art objects in Leesi church are indeed from the Juminda chapel and these include the wooden and wrought iron wad of cash for gathering donations, a wondrous collection of very old candelabra, several lead chalices and patens. Especially unique is a three-branched candelabrum that is therefore not kept in a church, but in a safer place. The three-mast model of a sailing ship that is hanging in the lobby under the tower was made by the local peasant Mart Paadimeister in the 1920s.

Kontakt Teated Esilehele Lehe algusesse Esilehele Harju-Jaani kirik Juuru kirik Jõelähtme kirik Jüri kirik Kose kirik Pikva kabel Kuusalu kirik Leesi kirik Loksa kirik Randvere kirik Tuhala kirik