Pöide St. Mary's church
St. Mary's can be seen from afar due to the flatness of the surrounding landscape. The size and massiveness of the church make it look more like a castle. In fact, the church of Pöide is closely linked with the fortification of Saaremaa during the Middle Ages. The eastern part of the island was under the control of the Livonian Order, which in the second half of the 13th century erected the castle of Pöide as their main foothold in the area.
On the southern side of the stronghold there was a chapel. The wall of the chapel's two-bayed nave forms part of the body of the present church. A peculiar feature of the church is the remains of the chapel's round-arched Romanesque portals on the northern and southern sides.
During the first half of the 14th century, the chapel was rebuilt into an magnificent parish church. Two bays were added - one in the east, the other in the west. Thus, the somewhat strange, long and rather simple ground plan came into being. At the same time the walls of the original chapel were also built higher. This work was done by the same masters that built the Muhu and Karja churches. This is suggested by the richly decorated main portal on the southern side and the northern portal, as well as the stone carvings inside the church.
When the Soviets occupied the country in 1940, the church became a storehouse for the Soviet army. During that year, some say lightning struck the tower and caused a fire. The ruins were roofed, but the church is still in need of restoration. All the historical furnishings of the church were destroyed in the fire. However, several epitaphs and tombstones have survived, the most interesting being the archaic trapezoid tombstones that are covered with reliefs.
View of the church from the southwest. The massive western tower predominates the architectural appearance of the church. It has retained its monumental look even without its spire, which burned in 1940. The present flat roof, along with the roof of the nave, were constructed in 1958-1961.
The northern portal. There were once modest round-arched portals in the longitudinal walls of the original chapel, traces of these can still be seen on the northern wall. A new portal was built into the same wall in the course of reconstruction. The rose motif on the capitals is one of the most beautiful examples of carved stonework in Estonia. Its prototypes originate in France.
The consoles on the northern wall of the nave. Some of the most beautiful sculpture decorates the consoles of the middle transverse arch. Two peasants in long coats can be seen on the northern console. These are some of the earliest representations of Estonians in art. The woman is holding a ritual drinking horn, her clothing is adorned with a brooch. Unfortunately, these sculptures were damaged in 1940, when the church served as a storehouse for the Soviet army.
Fragment of the southern console on the transverse arch. Unlike the northern console, only foliage decorates the southern console. The finely carved vine leaves can undoubtedly be ascribed to the same master who hewed the main portal of Karja church. According to the gospel of St. John, the vine - a frequently used motif in Christian art - symbolizes the Christian congregation.