Temppeliaukio, whose name can be translated from Finnish as Temple Square, is the official name of, what we would like to call, the Church in the Rock. Some people call it the Rock Church but we don’t care about the name of this beautiful building as much as we care for how beautiful it is.
The Church in the Rock was excavated straight into solid rock following the designs created by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. Because of its special architecture, this church is one of the main attractions in Helsinki.
When we visited the church, back in September 2014, we saw a lot of people there. So, if you want to see the church in peace, try to go as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
The Church in the Rock is covered with a dome lined with copper and supported by the rocks. The walls are made of solid rock and during the morning, the sunlight spreads from the roof to the altar and it is beautiful.
But, before we say more, lets tell the story behind the Church in the Rock of Helsinki.
The rocky area where the Temppeliaukio stands today was already reserved for a church in the first city plan of Helsinki, called Etu-Töölö. But this was back in 1906 and nothing happened there until 1931 when the parish council applied to have a church built there.
An architecture contest was held in 1932 but nobody was happy with the results and they waited until another contest in 1936. A architecture plan from professor Johan Sigfrid Sirén started being put in place but then the Winter War against the Soviet Union had to stop the construction work.
After the war was over, in 1961, the plan from Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen was put in to place. The idea of embedding the church itself inside the rock was kept as intact as possible and this is what you see today.
But back in the 60s, public opinion was against the church plan. Some people called it a devil defense bunker. Others called the rock mosque. A lot of people wanted a traditional cathedral and not a church in the rock.
In the end, the Church in the Rock was built inside this massive block of natural granite. You enter the church from street level and there you can see the walls made of the most common type of stone in Finland.
This red, mauve and grey granite surrounds you everywhere inside the church. The benches are made of wood and creates a beautiful contrast with the copper on the ceiling and the rocky walls.
After visiting a lot of churches through out the years, we have to say that we became really interested in the organs we, sometimes, find there. And the Church in the Rock has a special one.
Built by Veikko Virtanen, the organ has 43 stops and 3001 pipes. The exterior of the organ was designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and must sound beautifully based on what we read from the acoustics of the rock. Next time we are in Helsinki, we are going to try to see if there is anything musical happening there since the church became a popular venue for musical concerts.
Something curious about the Church in the Rock is that is doesn’t have any bells. So a recording of bells is played via loudspeakers on the exterior wall. Those were composed by Taneli Kuusisto, who served as the organist at the Töölön Church from 1943 to 1963.
The Church in the Rock can be found in the heart of Helsinki. This church is a must-see destination for lovers of architecture.
The fact that this church was built in the rock gives it a wow factor that we didn’t see anywhere else. It is pretty easy to say that we have never seen anything like this before and this is why you need to see this church in Helsinki.