photo © Discovering Finland

Cathedrals in Finland

There are a dozen cathedrals in Finland, most of which are located in the southern part of the country. Like its castles, Finland’s cathedrals are among the country’s most notable edifices, and attract visitors from all over the world every year

Espoo Cathedral

The medieval stone church in Espoo became a cathedral in 2004 after the Diocese of Espoo was split from the Diocese of Helsinki, and became the seat of the Diocese of Espoo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Situated near the town centre in the district of Espoon Keskus, the church was originally designed in the late 15th century by an unknown Espoo Master, and was built between 1485 and 1490 under his supervision.

The only remaining parts of the medieval church are the eastern and western parts of the nave. The weapons room was removed between 1804 and 1806 and certain other parts of the church, including the original sacristy, were taken apart between 1821 and 1823 when the building was converted into a more spacious cruciform church. The vaults and walls of the older parts of the cathedral are decorated with murals, largely painted in the 1510s, that depict both biblical scenes and events in the daily life of the people. The paintings were covered in the 18th century as they were thought to be ‘crude and superstitious’ but uncovered again and conserved during renovations in 1931.

The cathedral grounds include a graveyard, a vicarage and a parish hall completed in 1995. In addition to being the seat of the Diocese of Espoo, it serves as the church for the Espoo Cathedral Parish and hosts various concerts and other events including the ‘Organ Night and Aria’ concert series.

Helsinki Cathedral

Known as St. Nicholas Church until Finland gained its independence in 1917, Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most distinctive landmarks in Helsinki. Designed by Carl Ludvig Engel to complete the Senate Square, and surrounded by other buildings designed by him, the cathedral was built between 1830 and 1852 in the neoclassical style. It was originally built as a tribute to the Grand Duke, Nicolas I, the Tzar of Russia.

Today Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most popular tourist attractions, and one the most photographed buildings, in the city. Over 350,000 people visit every year, some to attend religious services. It is in regular use for religious events, and is one of the most sought after venues for weddings. The crypt was renovated in the 1980s by architects Vilhelm Helander and Juha Leiviskä for use for exhibitions and church functions. Helander was also responsible for the conservation repairs to the cathedral in the late 1990s.

Kuopio Cathedral

Kuopio Cathedral is an impressive stone church designed in the neoclassical style by Pehr W. Palmrooth, and completed in 1816. Today, it is the seat of the Diocese of Kuopio and the centre of Lutheran worship for the area. It’s exterior has been recently renovated, and it is one of the most prominent architectural sites in the city.

Lapua Cathedral

Situated in Lapua, some 60km east of Vaasa, The Lapua Cathedral is the seat of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Lapua. Designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in the neoclassical style, the cathedral was completed in 1827, and within the churchyard you can find the monument erected in honour of the fallen still remaining in Karelia, the War Memorial for 1918, the Light Infantry, or Jääkäri, Statue, and the Angel Statue. Lapua Cathedral contains the largest organ in Finland, with 85 + 6 stops, and the Lapua Organ Festival is held here every two years.

Mikkeli Cathedral

Mikkeli Cathedral was designed by Josef Stenbäck and completed in 1897. Like many others designed by him, it represents the Gothic Revival, and seats 1,200. The altar painting, ‘Crucified’, was painted by Pekka Halonen in 1899, and the organ was built in 1956 by the Kangasala Organ Factory with 51 stops.

Oulu Cathedral

Built in 1777 as a tribute to King Gustav III of Sweden, and named after his wife as Sofia Magdalena Church, Oulu Cathedral is the seat of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Oulu. The original wooden structures, designed by Daniel Hagman, were destroyed in 1822 when fire raged through the city, and rebuilt again on top of the old stonewalls, with the designs by Carl Ludvig Engel. Restoration works were completed in 1832, and the belfry was erected 1845.

Porvoo Cathedral

Porvoo Cathedral was built in the 15th century, although the oldest parts date from the 13th century. It is the seat of the Diocese of Borgå, Finland’s Swedish-speaking diocese, and is used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, as well being used for services by the Porvoo Finnish-speaking parish which is administratively part of the Diocese of Helsinki. Porvoo Cathedral has been destroyed by fire on numerous times, in 1508 by Danish forces, and in 1571, 1590, and 1708 by Russian forces. In 2006 an arson attack caused the outer roof to collapse, but the inner ceiling and interiors remained intact. The Cathedral was reopened on 2 July 2008. The Cathedral was the site of opening of first Diet of Finland March 28, 1809 where Finland was declared an autonomous Grand Duchy, with the Emperor of Russia as the Grand Duke of Finland.

Savonlinna Cathedral

Savonlinna Cathedral was built between 1874-1878 and designed by architect Axel Hampus Dahlström in the Gothic Revival style. In 1896 the new diocese of Savonlinna was founded and the Savonlinna church became a cathedral. In 1925 the bishop’s seat was moved to Vyborg, but the church still retained ‘cathedral’ as it’s name. During the Winter war in 1st of May 1940 Savonlinna was bombed and the church was damaged. It was restored in 1947-1948 by architect Bertel Liljeqvist. In 1990-1991 it was renovated by Ansu Ånström.

St. Henry’s Cathedral

The main Catholic church in Helsinki, St. Henry’s Cathedral is dedicated to Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, and was contructed between 1858-1860. It’s architecture is Neo-Gothic with statues of St. Henry, St. Peter, and St. Paul decorating the exterior.

Tampere Cathedral

The Tampere Cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Tampere, and was designed by Lars Sonck in the National Romantic style and built between 1902 and 1907. It is famous for its frescoes by symbolist Hugo Simberg which he painted between 1905 and 1906. The most famous of these are The Wounded Angel and The Garden of Death, although at the time the work that caused most controversy was his painting of a winged serpent on a red background in the highest point of the ceiling, which his contemporaries interpreted as a symbol of sin and corruption. The large altarpiece was painted by Magnus Enckell. There are six entrances, each with its own gate in the surrounding wall. It became a cathedral in 1923, and today is a popular venue for weddings and for concerts.

Turku Cathedral

Turku Cathedral is Finland’s national shrine, and the Mother Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Regarded as one of the major records of Finnish architectural history, it is the most important religious building in the country. The cathedral is central to the nation’s annual Christmas celebrations, and every day at noon the sound of its bells chiming can be heard on national radio.

Originally built from wood in the late 13th century, it was dedicated as the main cathedral of Finland in 1300. In the 14th and 15th centuries it was considerably expanded in stone, but was badly damaged in the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, and was rebuilt to a great extent afterwards.

The altarpiece, depicting the Transfiguration of Jesus, was painted in 1836 by the Swedish artist Fredrik Westin. The reredos behind the High Altar, and the pulpit in the crossing, also both date from the 1830’s, and were designed by german architect Carl Ludvig Engel. The walls and roof in the chancel are decorated with frescos in the Romantic style by the court painter Robert Wilhelm Ekman, which depict events from the life of Jesus, and the two key events in the history of the Finnish Church: the baptism of the first Finnish Christians by Bishob Henry by the spring at Kupittaa, and the presentation to King Gustav Vasa by the Reformer Michael Agricola of the first Finnish translation of the New Testament.

Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, Finland, dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary). Its name comes from the Russian word uspenie, which denotes the Dormition. It was designed by the Russian architect Alexey Gornostaev,  and was built after his death in 1862-1868. The crypt chapel of the cathedral is named after the holy Alexander Hotovitzky, who served as vicar of the Orthodox parish of Helsinki 1914-1917.

Set upon a hillside on the Katajanokka peninsula overlooking the city, Uspenski Cathedral is the main cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox Church in the diocese of Helsinki, and is claimed to be the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. Over half a million tourists visit the cathedral every year.