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22.07.2020

Suomenlinna Church, Helsinki

Suomenlinna Church is an Evangelical Lutheran Church located in Suomenlinna, Helsinki. For most of its history the church served as a garrison church owned by the army. Today it belongs to the parish of the Helsinki Cathedral. The building also serves as a beacon.

Suomenlinna Church was completed in 1854 according to the plans of architect Konstantin Tony . Originally it was an Orthodox Russian garrison church Viaporin, dedicated to Alexander Nevsky Square. It was converted into a Lutheran church after the independence of Finland, because during the young republic was no longer considered suitable for those who came to the city from the sea met the first Russian-style church.

After Finland became independent, Suomenlinna and its buildings were handed over to the Finnish Defence Forces. In the spring of 1918 Alexander Nevsky's Church was transformed into an Evangelical-Lutheran garrison church under the guidance of the Building Council. The icons and other original decorations were taken out of the church hall and transferred to the Orthodox spiritual government; only the icon of the Holy Communion belonging to the iconostasis remained as an altar. In the hall was built a Lutheran altar, chairs of benches. At the same time, the onion domes of the four side towers were dismantled and replaced by the simple tops of the towers. However, the rest of the church was not broken, and the large onion dome of the main tower was still in place.

In the political climate after independence, attempts were made in Helsinki to erase memories of the Russian era, and the Orthodox appearance of Suomenlinna Church was widely condemned in the 1920s. In 1923, Arktekten complained that the city's skyline had been tarnished by two "eastern guest" church buildings: the Cathedral of the Assumption and the Suomenlinna Church. Suomen Kuvalehti, for his part, wrote in 1925 that "the church in Russian Suomenlinna style gives its ugly imprint to the whole island". In autumn 1922 the Ministry of Defence announced an architectural competition for the complete reconstruction of the Suomenlinna church. The aim was to create a new Lutheran look for the church that would fit better into the urban skyline and architecture of the Swedish Suomenlinna fortress.

The competition was won by a classic proposal by the architect Einar Söstrom, which was awarded by the award committee for its valuable simplicity suitable for the garrison church, and the appearance that fits into the very old architecture of the fortress. The restoration work was still postponed for years due to lack of money. In 1926, the government of Kyosti Callio submitted a proposal to Parliament to allocate funds for the renovation of the Suomenlinna Church. The Left opposed the proposal and considered it a waste of public funds, but the Coalition's Minister of Education and future Archbishop Laurie Ingmann strongly supported the budget. According to Ingman, the dilapidated appearance of the Suomenlinna Church was the goal of a tourist miracle and shame for the whole country.Parliament provided an allocation of 1.7 million Finnish marks by 102 to 60 votes.

The reconstruction of the Suomenlinna Church was carried out between 1927 and 1929. Einar Söstrom was already dead and the work was led by architect Jarl Eklund, who also did Söstrom's drawings. During the alterations, the appearance of the church changed almost completely. The outer walls, previously built with columns and ornaments, were smooth and finished with white bricks. The four side towers were completely removed and the main tower was converted to Gustav style. The bell pavilion next to the church was also changed to look the same. The appearance of the church hall was further reduced due to the removal of the remains of decorations from the Russian era. The lighthouse was installed on top of the tower in 1929. The lighthouse flashes with four short flashes that are in Morse N alphabet as in Helsinki.  The lighthouse is the highest in Finland (54.2 m above sea level) and was renovated in 1994 and 2018. - Originally the tower also housed a Stockholm-Helsinki radio beacon, which sent air traffic to the airports in Santahamina and Katajanokka, but the beacons were decommissioned before World War II. 

The church was given to the Helsinki Lutheran community in 1960. Architect Veikko Leisten planned, extensive renovation work was carried out there, which was completed in 1963. Bishop Martti Simoyoki's wedding castle was reopened on 9 February 1964. Since 1999 the church has been part of the Church of Helsinki Cathedral, this is before it belonged to the community of John.

The church bell in a separate crane next to the church is the largest in Finland and weighs 6 683 kg. It was cast in 1885 in Moscow. The church is surrounded by an 1870s fence made of 18th century cannons and a chain used to close the straits. At the entrances, symbolic Finnish lions were added after independence.

In 2006, the idea of partially restoring the temple in its original form arose in Helsinki. The National Council of Antiquities and the parishes rejected the idea.

UP