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The Great Coastal Gate

The Great Coastal Gate (in Estonian: Suur Rannavärav) is first mentioned in 1359 with sources initially referring to it as “Strandporte” and since 1384 as “major Strandporte”.

During the construction works which started in 1510, the coastal gate received an addition of a new barbican and a western tower, called “Fat Margaret (in Estonian: Paks Margareeta)” since the first half of the 19th century (formerly called “Rozencrantz”). The building complex was established mainly to protect the harbour, and its exterior appearance was meant to give an imposing effect.

The construction of the artillery tower was probably designed by Clemens Pale. Starting from the 1520s, the construction works were led by the master craftsman Gert Koningk from Münster who had previously also worked on Tallinn’s St Olaf’s Church. Reconstruction was completely finished by 1531, the completion of the main construction works (1529) is indicated by a dolomite plaque of the coat of arms in the Flamboyant style on the front side of the gate. The Fat Margaret artillery tower is in the shape of a three-quarter circle with a diameter of 25 m and a wall thickness of 2.25 – 5.5 m, the width of the wall gradually decreasing upwards. The tower had strong wooden beam ceilings which were supported by a massive central stone post. Due to natural ground subsidence, the height of the tower is 16 m on the western side and 22 m on the eastern side. Along with Fat Margaret, a defensive side wall was constructed, 3 m thick and 6.8 m tall, featuring artillery slits and reaching from Fat Margaret to the Stolting Tower.

In 1603 – 1609, another barbican (so-called “rampart gate”) was constructed in front of the aforementioned existing barbicans. The rampart gate complex included two arched Renaissance portals with wooden doors, and a drawbridge. In 1640 – 1650, Hornbastion was constructed in front of the northeast corner of Fat Margaret. At the end of the century, it was reconstructed as the Great Coastal Gate bastion.

In 1683 – 1704, Fat Margaret itself was reconstructed – the initial machicolation and the floor standing on it were demolished and replaced with a regular artillery floor, the tower itself was covered by a tall stone roof.

In the 19th century, Fat Margaret was repurposed as a prison. In 1884, a 4-floor limestone prison outbuilding was completed on the southern side of Fat Margaret. During the February Revolution of 1917, the prison was torched, the prison warden was shot dead in front of the building and the whole complex was left in ruins. In 1938 – 1940, the aforementioned prison outbuilding and the barbican building were reconstructed as the City Museum premises. At the same time, the walls of Fat Margaret were fixed up and roofed, and the embrasures repurposed as windows in the 19th century were restored.

In 1978 – 1981, the whole remaining complex was reconstructed for the use of Maritime Museum. During reconstruction, Fat Margaret received reinforced concrete ceilings, its open platform floor was restored and the artillery tower was given an exterior similar to the original one.

The original project for reconstruction and adaptation of the Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret tower complex for Estonian Maritime museum was designed 1978-79 by Polish architect Jerzy Matusiak-Tusiacki.

The museum was expected to be completed by the time of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Sailing Regatta in Tallinn, but the construction was delayed and the exposition of the Maritime Museum was opened in the tower in 1981.

On 31.01.2018, the museum was closed to renovate Fat Margaret. The new Fat Margaret Museum and Visitor Centre is open since 29.11.2019. Please read about the development project and the awards it received here.

Please also have a look at the publications of Maritime Museum at