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Rock Church

Rock church (Temppeliaukio)

Töölö parish

23.03.2018, 13:55
Excavated directly into solid rock, the Temppeliaukio church is situated in the heart of Helsinki, at the end of Fredrikinkatu. Because of its special architecture, the church, completed in 1969, is one of the main attractions in Helsinki. The church hall is covered with a dome, lined with copper and supported on the rock walls by reinforced concrete beams. The interior walls are of rugged rock and rubble wall. Before noon, the sunlight spreads from the row of windows surrounding the roof periphery to the altar wall, where an ice-age crevice serves as the altarpiece.

The rocky area at the end of Fredrikinkatu was already reserved as the location for the church in the first confirmed city plan of Arkadia, that is, the current Etu-Töölö, in 1906. In 1931, the parish council applied to the city for the plot of Temppeliaukio, to build the main church of Etu-Töölö, which was being made an independent parish,.

The architecture contest for the church was organised in 1932. Unhappy with the results, the contest committee announced a new contest in 1936. The implementation of the plan of professor Johan Sigfrid Sirén, second runner-up in the contest, was terminated by the Winter War. After the wars, a third architecture contest was organised, and it was won by architects, Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, in 1961. In the winning proposal the rock was kept as intact as possible, by embedding the church itself inside the rock and placing the other parish facilities on the edges of the hillock.

Public opinion was against the plan. In the newspapers the project was called a “rock mosque”, a “million mark church” and “devil defence bunker”. People wanted a traditional cathedral instead. A group of members of the Students' Christian Association thought that building a church in the world situation of the time was immoral, and in July 1968 they painted the word Biafra eleven times on the concrete foundation of the church and on the surrounding rocks. The first graffiti in Finland requested sending the building funds to the victims of the famine which had followed the struggle for independence in Biafra. The building costs of the church, considered expensive and extravagant, were a moderate four million marks in the end.

The Taivallahti church was dedicated in September 1969. In 1971 the name was officially changed to Temppeliaukio church. That same autumn, the church was visited by over 100,000 people, and the church was regularly full during services. The following year there were over half a million visitors. The church became a favourite of foreign visitors and the most important architectural sight in Helsinki. The church has been mentioned in over 200 architecture journals and respected museums around the globe. As the only example in Finland, the Temppeliaukio church was included in the Italian book series I Cento Monumenti, which introduces the sights of the world.

The church area excavated in the bedrock is entered from street level. The free-form, oval church hall bathes in daylight, which enters through the row of skylights, varying in width, between the rock wall and the dome. Reinforced concrete beams of different lengths support the dome. The dome and the gallery are lined with non-patinated copper. The floor is polished concrete, and the pulpit is reinforced concrete, as is the base structure of the gallery. Water trickling from the cracks in the rock is conducted away along special ducts. The height of the walls is 5–9 metres. The diameter of the dome is 24 metres, and the distance from the highest point from the floor is 13 metres. An ice-age crevice in the rock serves as an altarpiece. The altar is of evenly sawn granite.

The interior, designed by the architect brothers, repeats the shades of granite, the most common type of stone in Finland: red, mauve and grey. The benches are made of birch. The crucifix, candelabra and font were forged by artist, Kauko Moisio. The textiles were designed by textile artist, Tellervo Strömmer. The organ, built by Urkurakentamo Veikko Virtanen, has 43 stops. The exterior of the organ was designed by the architects of the church.

The Temppeliaukio church is a popular concert facility and wedding church. There is a split-level platform for the choir, and floor space is reserved for an orchestra. The Temppeliaukio church has no bells. Recorded bell tunes composed by professor Taneli Kuusisto chime through the speakers on the exterior stone wall.

The stone wall surrounding the church has been constructed of quarried stones held together with steel bindings. The planted areas on the rocks were designed by garden architect, Erik Sommerschield.

The church and the associated parish facilities are used by the Finnish Töölö parish.

In 2004, the Temppeliaukio church became a protected building.

Entrance fee 3€/person. Free entrance for members of Töölö parish, children under 18 years and with a valid Helsinki Card. Last entrance 10 minutes before closing time. On Sunday we celebrate mass at 10 o’clock. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday there is a short prayer at noon in English.

Celebrations at the church

Members of the church can organise a baptism, a wedding or a funeral free of charge in the church.

The church seats 750 and the connected parish meeting hall 80.