Four of the most interesting buildings we visited in Helsinki were churches. It’s not that I make a bee-line for churches when sightseeing, but these four totally different structures highlighted to me the huge diversity in religious architecture in one small city.
You can’t help but notice two of them, the contrasting edifices of the Lutheran Cathedral and the Russian (now Finnish) Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral, both fighting for attention across the capital’s skyline.
The Lutheran Cathedral, a beautiful neoclassical creation of CL Engels, was completed in 1852 and presides over the Senate Square. Tourists and locals congregate on the steps which lead up to its entrance, taking time to observe the city from this great vantage point.
The Uspenski Cathedral, which stands on Katajanokka island, was completed in 1868, a decade or so after its neighbour. It is an imposing sight with its golden-tipped onion-shaped domes.
The dazzling snowy white exterior of the former, I have to say, wins the award for eye appeal, when compared to the more functional red-brick exterior of the latter. Inside, the Orthodox church is more lavish, though still rather sombre. The more minimalist, simple decoration inside the Lutheran church is certainly more reflective of the Finnish culture, in my opinion.
|The Lutheran Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko)|
|Uspenski Cathedral (Uspenskin Katedraali)|
From two churches which shout their existence from a height, is one which only just pops its head above the parapet. The ‘Rock Church’ – Temppeliaukio kirkko – is underground, hewn out of a massive block of natural granite. It’s all the more unusual as it’s situated in a residential part of the city, near apartments and a children’s park. Two brothers, Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, blasted out the walls from within the rock to create this exciting space in 1969.
From outside, all you can see is its copper top peeping out of the rock like a flying saucer. Inside it’s like a tardis – a vast airy space with tremendous acoustics. It’s a real thrill to visit – certainly one of the highlights of our trip.
|The exterior dome of the Rock Church|
|Interior of the Rock Church|
Finally, my favourite church of them all, because of its utter simplicity and beauty. The Kamppi Chapel is a fairly new addition to Helsinki, situated near to the entrance of the shopping centre, in the heart of the city. It was designed by architects Sirola and Mikko Summanen of K2S Architects Ltd, an astonishing example of innovative wood design. The outer walls are constructed from spruce, the inner walls from alder and the interior furnishings from ash.
The building is exquisite – a bold design, yes, but when you enter, the noise from outside is totally removed. It is a space for reflection and allows shoppers and tourists the opportunity to find a sense of calm. Church services are not organised here – no weddings or baptisms – just occasional prayers.
We happened to enter the chapel at 10.30am on 9th June – the exact time, 25 years ago, that Dougie and I were married. I suppose we could have walked into any of the churches in Helsinki to take a moment to reflect but this one was perfect. I will never forget how special it was and how happy it made us both feel.
|Exterior of the Kamppi Chapel|
|The beautiful warm interior of the Kamppi Chapel.|