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28.07.2020

The Old Church of Helsinki

The Old Church of Helsinki is the oldest church in downtown Helsinki. It was opened on December 17, 1826 and was designed by Carl Ludwig Engel. 

Originally the old church was conceived only as a temporary solution, when Ulrik Eleanor's Church received the decision to demolish the road to Senate Square. Ulrika Eleanor's Church was moved to the Old Church, such as chandeliers and pews; the present pulpit of the Old Church is still cancelled. The Helsinki Cathedral was already under construction, but was not completed until 1852. Due to its temporary character, the Old Church was built of wood and no bells were even bought there. Later, an electronic device was purchased to replace the church bells.

The altar in the church is "Jesus blesses the children" by Robert Wilhelm Eckmann. The light work was originally conceived as an altar for the cathedral, but Emperor Nicholas I considered it too tender and sacrificed a gloomy "crucifixion of Christ" to the cathedral.

The Old Church is surrounded by the Old Church Park, which was a former cemetery and was used as such long before the Old Church. It is also sometimes called the "plague park" because a large number of victims of the plague that struck Helsinki in 1710 were buried in the cemetery. No burials have been made in the park since 1919, and today the park is used almost exclusively for recreation and transit. The church is located on the northern outskirts of the park along Lennrotinkatu. A gate designed by Engel leads from the boulevard to the park, from which a wide and straight park corridor begins, leading to the church. However, only the side door leads to the church from its end because, like most other old churches, the Old Church has a main door on the west end and an altar on the east end.

The Old Church was for a long time the oldest church in all of Helsinki, until a part of Sipoo was merged with Helsinki in 2009, and at the same time the Church of Esztersund moved to Helsinki, thus "inheriting" the name of the oldest church in Helsinki.

In the northeast corner of the cemetery is the cemetery of the merchant Johan Cederholm.

The old church has about 1200 seats. It belongs to the Helsinki Cathedral Parish. The church hosts Mass on Sundays at 10 am and on Wednesdays at 8 pm.

The Old Church is a very popular church for baptism, sanctification and blessing. In 1998, the church celebrated the second wedding of then Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen. Perhaps the most famous of the people blessed in the Old Church are the State Councillors K.A. Fagerholm and Johannes Viroleinen, Väino Tanner, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Winter War, the architect Alvar Aalto, the Olympic running champion Paavo Nurmi and the composers Erkki Melikanto and Aarre Melartin.

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