I almost feel like I’m stuck in Finland with my posts right now. I must be missing it even though many of my friends there have told me, that beautiful summer is only a memory anymore. Fall has arrived in Finland as well. Oh well, maybe at some point I will be able to move on, but for now, a few words about the churches there. Almost 80% of the population in Finland belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which means that every town has its own Lutheran church. We first started to visit churches, since my American husband was interested in seeing them, and I soon realised that they are actually very interesting. All of the churches have their own history and a story to tell, and I have been surprised about how beautiful these buildings are.
PETÄJÄVESI OLD CHURCH
When thinking about a church which has impressed me the most, the Petäjävesi Old Church is absolutely on the top. Thank you to our friends in Jyväskylä who took us there for a visit. Even though the church is not very big, it mesmerises with its many stories and long history. Squeaky planks on the floor and decorative paintings on the wall will take you to a totally different era. This wooden church was built between 1763-64, and next to it is an old cemetery and bell tower which was built later. Petäjävesi Old Church represents eastern Scandinavian wooden church building at its best, and is one the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Finland.
As you can see from the photos, our visit to Petäjävesi was some years ago when our older daughter was still quite small. This church was really interesting with many cool stories from history.
Kerimäki Church is not as beautiful as Petäjävesi, but it was very impressive in other ways. It is said to be the world’s biggest wooden church. And it truly felt quite big while walking around inside with other visitors. The church was built in 1847. Some legends say the size of the church was a mistake; like mixing up centimetres with inches or mixed up architect’s papers. Most likely they just wanted to make sure that half of the town’s people would fit in at once. During that time, there were 12,000 inhabitants in Kerimäki, and the church can accommodate 4 or 5 thousand people inside it. There are 3,300 seats in the church.
When we visited Kerimäki Church they had an exhibition of wooden paupers inside the church. We were also able to climb up to the bell tower next to the building.
This summer, on our road trip in Finland, we visited the Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki. In 1961 two brothers; Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen won an architect contest with their special plan to quarry the church into the face of a huge rock. The church was inaugurated to use in 1969 and it was first called Taivallahti Church. The name was later changed. While visiting the church, one of the things you definitely notice, is the copper coated dome. Some natural light will come in from a ceiling window, and the altarpiece is a cracked rock from the ice age. Because of its excellent acoustics, the church is very popular place for concerts. It is one of the most popular sights in Helsinki.
ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH
We visited St. Michael’s Church this summer without an actual plan to go there. We drove by, and since we had some time, we decided to go in. And wow! I had no idea that there was such a beautiful church in Finland. It was built between 1899 and 1905, and it represents Art Nouveau and Gothic styles. There is a fascinating story of how the church was designed. The architect Lars Sonck, who was only a 24 year old student at the time, won an architecture contest with his design. The older architects didn’t approve, and they even planned to expel him from the school. Even though the church is truly magnificent, Sonck himself was never happy with his design and made many changes to it during construction. Later while visiting Turku, he never wanted to see the church.
I visited Korsholm Church a few years ago while visiting a friend in Vaasa. I wanted to see Old Vaasa, so while there, we also went into the church. The church was built in 1786 and it was actually a building for the Vaasa court. It is one of the rare buildings that survived the city fire in 1852. After the fire the whole town was moved to a different location, and also the court moved. Their old building was retrofitted into a church between 1862-63.
The church is very popular for weddings and very busy on weekends during the summer. Even when we were visiting, they had a photo shoot outside, and inside of the church, the cantor was practicing the wedding march. While listening to the church organs and the beautiful music, it was hard to keep yourself from tearing up.
We like visiting churches and reading about their history. Many times if visiting during the summer, there is a guide who will answer your questions. Or you can of course, read a bit about the history of the church before going for a visit. Many churches have quite colorful pasts, and many notable people have been buried in the church cemeteries. I absolutely recommend visiting some local churches while traveling!
What is the most memorable church you have visited?