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17.07.2020

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is a Finnish Lutheran cathedral in the diocese of Helsinki, located in the Kruununhaka district in the center of Helsinki, Finland on Senate Square. The church was built in 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I in Russia. It was also known as St. Nicholas Church until Finland's independence in 1917. It is the main attraction of the city. 

A distinctive landmark of the Helsinki cityscape, with its high green dome surrounded by four small domes, the building in the neoclassical style. It was designed by Carl Ludwig Engel as the culmination of his planning in Senate Square: it is surrounded by other smaller buildings designed by him.

The plan of the church is a Greek cross (square center and four equilateral arms), symmetrical in each of the four main directions, with the facade of each arm decorated with a colonnade and pediment. Engel originally intended to place another row of columns at the western end to mark the main entrance opposite the eastern altar, but it was never built.

After Helsinki was turned into the Finnish capital in 1812, Alexander I decided in 1814 that 15 percent of the salt import tax should be collected for two churches, one Lutheran and one Orthodox church. The cathedral was built on the site of a smaller 1724-1727 Ulrika Eleonora Church (Helsinki) , which was dedicated to his patroness, Ulrika Eleonora , Queen of Sweden . The Old Church of Helsinki was built between 1824 and 1826 in the neighboring Kampiski parish during the destruction of Ulrika Eleanor's church and before the consecration of the new cathedral. The bells of the old church were reused in the cathedral. Construction of the cathedral began in 1830, although it was not officially opened until 1852. Engel died in 1840.

Later the building was changed by Engel's successor Ernst Norman, whose four small domes emphasize the architectural connection with the models of the cathedral, St. Isaac's Cathedral and Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Norman has also designed two additional buildings on the sides of the steps: on the left side of the building you can see the bell tower and on the right side you can see the chapel. He also installed huge zinc statues of the Twelve Apostles on the tops and corners of the roof line in 1849.  They were created by Augustus Wredov and Hermann Schievelbein and casting C. P. Devaranne in Berlin in 1845-1847. The altar was painted by Timothy Andreevich Neff and presented to the Church by Emperor Nicholas I . The cathedral crypt was renovated in the 1980s by architects Wilhelm Helander and Juha Leiviska for use in exhibitions and church events; Helander was also responsible for conservation at the cathedral in the late 1990s.

Today the cathedral is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki. In 2018, half a million visitors came to the cathedral. The church is regularly used for divine services and special events, such as weddings.

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