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A unique sanctuary in Helsinki

In the heart of the Etu-Tӧӧlӧ neighbourhood in Helsinki, a copper dome with an almost extra-terrestrial appearance rises from the rocky ground. Hidden below is a unique structure, the Temppeliaukio Church. The church is hacked out of rock, hence the nickname ‘the Rock Church’. This fascinating church enjoys international fame as the ultimate example of Finnish architecture.

In 1906, the city council decided that a church should be built on the rugged piece of land at the end of Fredrikinkatu, a major street in Helsinki. The design process was not without its challenges: after an initial design competition, the jury was not entirely happy with the submissions. The second time around the winning plans failed in the early stages due to the onset of World War II. But the third time proved to be the charm and the rock church was ultimately completed in 1969.

The dome of the Temppeliaukio Church
The dome of the Temppeliaukio Church

Helsinki

Candles along the rock walls

Progressive design

In 1961, the Finnish architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen submitted the winning design. The jury found the idea to be ‘completely original’ and was pleased with the proposal in which the original rocks could remain in place to some degree. However, the residents of Helsinki were not as enthusiastic about the design and preferred a traditional chapel. The ‘Rock Church’ was too reminiscent of a mosque or even a ‘diabolical bunker’. Due to the resistance, construction did not begin until 1968. After the completion and inauguration of the church one year later, it did not take long before Temppeliaukio was embraced by all and the church became one of the highlights of the city.

Design from the barren North

Nordic design is famous for its simplicity and minimalism. The interior of the Temppeliaukio Church is a great example of this. Since the rocks serve as walls and much granite is incorporated into the interior, the natural surroundings are given their proper due. The numerous windows in the dome create a beautiful interplay of sunlight and shadow.

Natural incidence of light through the 180 windows in the dome
The acoustic ceiling of the church

An architectural tour

Helsinki is a must for architecture lovers. Modernism, functionalism and the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe – this city has it all. Stroll along the architectural highlights following a special walking map which can be purchased at the

Tourist Information

. Or simply take tram line 4, which passes virtually every interesting building in the city.