Pilgrims’ House


The Episcopal Castle in Vastseliina, Võru county, Estonia


420 m²


Vastseliina Piiskopilinnuse SA

Interior and Architecture



Margit Argus, Kaiko Kerdmann,
Toomas Adrikorn, Margit Aule, Laura Ojala

Graphic Design

Katri Haarde


Completed in 2018


2019 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award nominee

2019 Annual Award of the Estonian Association of Architects

2018 Annual Award of the Estonian National Heritage Board “Well-designed new building in historical environment”

In south-eastern Estonia, a traveller ascending the steepish slopes of the ancient glacial valleys carved by the Piusa River and Meeksi stream will reach a complex of buildings including the ruins of a 14th-century castle, an old pub house, and the modern Pilgrims’ House. The Episcopal Castle in Vastseliina is a venue imbued with history.

The castle complex, which became a renowned pilgrimage destination after a miracle was reported in 1353, has been rejuvenated as an experience centre to exhibit the medieval way of life. The Pilgrims’ House, finished in 2018, stands as a recent addition to this historic ensemble.

The concept of the Pilgrims’ House has been shaped by the historic location, the picturesque scenery, and the meditative realm of pilgrimage. The house has been nested onto the slope and designed to avoid blocking the view of what is left of the castle. The modern building is distinguishable though respectful to the old and remains partly veiled by the greenery during the summer period, reaching away from the castle ruins and jutting out towards the stream in the valley.

This building embodies a pilgrimage towards a delicate architectural vision that strikes a balance between evoking historical ambience and responding to contemporary norms. It exudes a subdued medieval charm, with spacious rooms, imposing doors, concealed staircases, hidden nooks, brick flooring, and plastered walls. Small, castle-like windows punctuate the mostly austere walls, offering glimpses of scenic vistas framed by larger windows. The reddish-brown weathering steel cladding of the Pilgrims’ House harmoniously complements the red brick and granite of the castle ruins.

In essence, the Pilgrims’ House not only provides a glimpse into the medieval era but also serves as a testament to architectural ingenuity, encouraging introspection and leaving a lasting aesthetic impression on those who visit.

“The building feels very integral by how it appears in the landscape. From the location to the details, all elements seem to work together nicely, it is a successful abstraction of the medieval settings, without being romantic. We can see what is new and what represents the old in a smart and balanced way.”

– Sami Rintala – architect, jury member of the annual award of the Estonian Association of Architects 2018