Welcome to Kambja, the cradle of Estonian choir music!
In 1794, the local vicar Heinrich Andreas Erxleben together with Unitas Fratrum also known as the Moravian Church established the first Estonian choir in Kambja. The local landmark is St Martin’s Church, which was originally built in the 14th century but burnt down and rebuilt repeatedly during various wars. There are dozens of churches in Estonia with the same fate; however, it was in this church that the local vicar Andreas Virginius together with his son Adrian Virginius translated the New Testament into the South Estonian language. Andreas Virginius also established one of the first schools in Estonia for peasants in 1686. Similarly, Virginius was the first teacher of the local boy Ignatsi Jaak who later became one of the Estonian schoolboys presented to the Swedish king by Forselius and thus helped to keep the Estonian teacher training system going. Therefore, Kambja can be considered the cradle of the written Estonian language, education and choir music.
When in Kambja, you should also visit the Suure-Kambja forest park located near the manor’s lake. In front of the old manor building, there are two mighty 250-year-old larches (Kambja larches) that are considered the oldest representatives of that species in Estonia. As in many Estonian manor parks, you can also see some rare species here – tamarack, butternut, Chinese white poplar, green ash, and more.
St Martin’s Church and the cemetery in Kambja are interesting. Next to the cemetery you will find the monument to the War of Independence, the so-called Kambja Jaak (opened in 1929, restored in 1989), and the Family Stone (opened in 2011, featuring a mother, father, two daughters and a son. The family members are intertwined and are gazing at the sky).
Near the church gates there is an oak tree planted by the Crown Prince of Sweden Gustav Adolf. Close to it you will find the 300th anniversary memorial site and fire altar of Estonian peasant school. The church garden features symbolic tombstones for Bengt Gottfried Forselius, Ignatsi Jaak, Andreas Virginius and Albrecht Sutor.