The Church of the Cross is in the centre of Lahti, on Kolkanmäki Hill at the end of Mariankatu street. In the townscape of Lahti, this street joins two centres of power in society: Eliel Saarinen’s City Hall representing secular authority, and the church as the symbol of spiritual authority. The wooden church of Lahti, built in 1890, stood on the hill and was torn down in 1977 to make way for the new church.
The Evangelical-Lutheran congregations of Lahti invited Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) to design Keski-Lahti Church, the central church of the city. Upon completion in 1978, the church was named Ristinkirkko (Church of the Cross). The building is dominated by a cross design formed by 52 windows and a massive belfry of concrete. The triangular form of the interior space directs the attention of visitors towards the altar.
The Church of the Cross is also involved in cultural pursuits, being a venue for concerts, exhibitions, celebrations and other events, the most important of which is the Lahti International Organ Festival. The sculpture Spirit of Freedom by Wäinö Aaltonen stands in the cemetery for the war dead near the church.