History of the tower

With the advent of firearms and cannons used in the siege warfare, the defences had to evolve accordingly. Initial version of the artillery tower was built in 1475-1483. Back then people called it just ‘the new tower behind the Boleman’s Sauna’.

The first written record of the current name of the battery tower or version thereof originates from 1577 as Kyck in de Kaeken and from there on, multiple forms and spellings of that name were used, e.g. Kik (Kyk) in de Kok, Kiek in die Küche, Pulffer-Thurm Giecken Köck. Finally, in 1696 the current spelling appears, Kiek in de Kök, meaning ‘peek into the kitchen’ in Low German. Well, one could say that it was indeed possible to watch what the enemy was ‘cooking’ in their ‘kitchen’ from the towering height of about 38m.

As early as in late 15th century the tower was somewhat reconstructed. Extra layers were added to the outer walls rendering these thicker, so the overall diameter of the tower was 17.3 m. The walls reached the current thickness of 4 metres; however, the tower itself was lower back then. The waterproofed upper floor paved with cobblestones was open from the top and had 22 embrasures in its parapet. The parapets must have been covered by some kind of roof, yet the middle part of the floor remained open allowing for better access in placing mortars and catapults.

Compared to other defence towers of Reval, the Kiek in de Kök tower had major fire power due to its 27 embrasures for cannons and 30 for handguns.

zepThe ground floor of the tower was used as a storage space and also had the original entrance. The floor itself had a narrow shaft for light and air and no embrasures. The ammunition was hoisted up through the openings in the domed vaults using a pulley.

On the defence floors of the tower, the guns were rigged in embrasures that were provided with niches for the logs that served to stop the backlash. The floors of the embrasures were initially stepped to enable the men handle the guns better. The fireplaces on every floor were necessary to provide easy access to fire for the use of firearms.

With the vast reconstructions carried out in the 16th and 17th centuries, the original look of the tower changed considerably. In the construction of the Ingermanland Bastion at the end of 17th century, the earth layers heaped up at the foot of the tower swallowed the lower floors, rendering two lower storeys of the tower underground floors inside the bastion earth mound. Abandoning the ground floor entrance, a opening for a new entrance to the tower from the bastion was made into the first floor. The four upper levels were rebuilt to fit the guns on wheel carriages. Most of the steps in the embrasure floors were levelled and the embrasure mouths were funnelled.

pommAbove the embrasure chambers vents were built for siphoning out the gunpowder smoke. The last floor got a new outer wall to support a new ceiling roof that was 2 m thick at its thinnest and 4 m thick at the top of the vault.

While the armaments developed, the defence wall around the town lost its significance. In 1760 the tower was taken over by the state and was used as a storage space, living quarters, and archive rooms.

At the beginning of the 20th century the first Estonian heavy athletes used some of the rooms as their gym. To remove the small buildings erected around the tower, some reconstruction took place in 1958, and on 20th July the same year a museum branch of the Tallinn City Museum was opened in the Kiek in de Kök tower.

The extensive reconstruction in 1966-1968 aimed at finding a compromise between the 15th-16th century architecture, the 17th century reconstructions, and the needs of a modern museum. New floors of flagstone plates were laid, central heating and running water pipes were installed, all stairs were repaired and, to some extent, renovated.

jossifThe earth mound of the bastion surrounding the tower was partly hollowed up in the southern and western sides of the tower. In the southern side, the excavated area was surrounded with a protective wall and an entrance to the tower was built in the south side.

The entrance led to the hall and auxiliary rooms. The annex and the original tower were connected by a former embrasure, nowadays used by the visitors to enter the first floor of the tower. The newer, additional staircase that takes the visitor upstairs was built during the restoration in 1966-68.