Medieval churches in Finland

Turku Cathedral

Turku Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and the country's national shrine. It is the central church of the Archdiocese of Turku and the seat of the Archbishop of Finland. It is also regarded as one of the major records of Finnish architectural history.The cathedral was originally built out of wood in the late 13th century, and was dedicated as the main cathedral of Finland in 13 ...
Founded: 1400-1410 | Location: Turku, Finland

Porvoo Cathedral

The Porvoo Cathedral was originally made of wood. The first stone walls were built between 1410 and 1420 and in 1450 the church was expanded four meters towards east and six meters towards south. The cathedral has been destroyed by fire numerous times; in 1508 by Danish and in 1571, 1590, and 1708 by Russian forces. On May 29, 2006, the outer roof collapsed after arson, however with the inner ceiling undamaged and the ca ...
Founded: 1410-1420 | Location: Porvoo, Finland

The Church of the Holy Cross

The church of the former Franciscan monastery was built probably between 1515 and 1520. The choir of the two-aisle grey granite church features medieval murals and frescoes. The white steeple of the church was built in 1816 and has served as a landmark for seafarers.
Founded: 1515-1520 | Location: Rauma, Finland

Naantali Church

The Naantali Church was originally part of the Catholic Convent of St. Bridget. The convent was built between years 1443 and 1462 and church probably later in the end of 15th century. Nowadays the church is the only remaining building of the convent, which was closed during Reformation in 1540s. Naantali Church is damaged several times by fire and the present interior is mostly from the modern times except the pulpit (162 ...
Founded: 1443-1462 | Location: Naantali, Finland

Messukylä Old Church

The older church in Messukylä, dedicated to St. Michael, is the oldest building in Tampere. First wooden church in Messukylä was built in the 15th century, probably 1434. The present stone church was built to replace the previous one probably between 1510-1530. The oldest still existing part is the sacristy built in the end of 15th century. During the Civil War (1918), Messukylä was the scene of heavy batt ...
Founded: 1510-1530 | Location: Tampere, Finland

Espoo Cathedral

The Espoo Cathedral is a medieval stone church built in the last half of 15th century. The church is thus the oldest preserved building in the city. The church was originally designed in by an unknown "Espoo master" and built between 1485 and 1490 under his supervision. The only remaining parts of the medieval church are the eastern and western parts of the nave. The weapons room was removed between 1804 and 1806 and cer ...
Founded: 1480-1490 | Location: Espoo, Finland

St. Lawrence's Church

Lohja church is the third biggest medieval church in Finland. It dates back to the 15th century, probably between years 1470 and 1490. Impressive chalk paintings inside the church are made in the regime of bishop Arvid Kurki (1510-1522). The Lohja parish was established in 1230s or 1240s and there have been several wooden churches before the present one. Also origins of the bell tower date back to the Middle Ages. The up ...
Founded: 1470-1490 | Location: Lohja, Finland

The Church of the Holy Cross

Hattula Church is one of the oldest brick buildings in Finland. It was built in the 15th century and dedicated to the Holy Cross. Wall paintings are from the 16th century. The porch in front of the hall was built in the 16th century of grey stone and bell tower in 1813. Unique for having been built almost entirely of brick rather than stone, the church was a popular pilgrimage destination during the Middle Ages. A grey s ...
Founded: 1440-1490 | Location: Hattula, Finland

The Church of St. Lawrence

The Church of St. Lawrence dates back to ca. 1450 and is the oldest building in Vantaa and all of Greater Helsinki. Along with its surrounding neighborhood, the church is a part of the Helsingin pitäjän kirkonkylä district, which is one of the best preserved historical parishes in all of Finland. The Church of St. Lawrence was partially destroyed in a fire on 7 May 1893, after which it was reconstructed in a Gothic Re ...
Founded: 1450 | Location: Vantaa, Finland

St. Mary's Church

The Vehkalahti Church (today known as the St. Mary's Church) was built in the 14th century at the place were the town of Hamina is now. The history of Vehkalahti churches begins in 1396, when the first mention of town was written to a letter by Vyborg castle lord. The present stone church was built probably between 1430 and 1470. Because of it's location near the Russian border it was robbed and burned twice in wars duri ...
Founded: 1430-1470 | Location: Hamina, Finland

St Olaf's Church

The St. Olaf's Church in Tyrvää is a late medieval stone church built probably in 1510-1516.Archeologists have found evidences that the church site has been a spiritual place even in 1000 BC. The settlement has concentrated to the Vanhankirkonnimemi area during the end of Iron Age. There may have been two wooden churches before the present one built in the 14th century. The St. Olaf's Church was probably extende ...
Founded: 1510-1516 | Location: Sastamala, Finland

The St. Birgit Memorial Church

The St. Birgit Memorial Church was built probably between years 1502-1505. It is dedicated in memory of St. Birgit who died in Rome in 1373 and was proclaimed as a saint in 1391. Situated on the bordering area between the historic districts of Satakunta and Häme, the architectural style of the church exhibits certain influences from both of these areas. The shapes of the nave, rich in decoration, are typical of Sata ...
Founded: 1502-1505 | Location: Lempäälä, Finland

Inkoo Church

The oldest parts of grey stone church date back to the 15th century. It was built in three periods: the first part probably in 1430s, second maybe in the later half of 15th century and latest in 1510s. The roof was destroyed by lightning in 1623 and the bell tower was built beside 1739-1740. The Inkoo parish is very old (established in the beginning of 13th century) and it's quite probable there have been wooden churches ...
Founded: 1430-1510 | Location: Inkoo, Finland

The Church of St. Sigfrid

The Old Church in Sipoo was built in 1450-1454 by the same unknown architect who designed for example Porvoo, Pernaja and Pyhtää churches.There are several wall paintings inside the church from the end of 15th century.
Founded: 1450-1454 | Location: Sipoo, Finland

The Church of the Holy Trinity

According some references there has been a wooden church and stone sacristy in Rauma even since the 14th century. It might be true that stones of the sacristy was used as a part of the Holy Trinity Church. It was built in the 15th and 16th centuries to replace earlier wooden church. Anyway, church destroyed in a fire in 1640, and the Church of the Holy Cross has served as the parish church ever since. There are still som ...
Founded: 1495-1505 | Location: Rauma, Finland

Parainen Church

The greystone church in Parainen was built in the 15th century (probably in 1440-1460) and is dedicated to St. Simon. The western part of the Agricola-chapel is the eldest component of the church, today a museum. On the churchyard is located the chapel of bishop Tengström, Finland's first archbishop (erected in 1819). The interior of the church is covered with several coat of arms. The rarest one is dedicated to pope ...
Founded: 1440-1460 | Location: Länsi-Turunmaa, Finland

The Church of St. James

The church of Renko was built in the end of 15th century or at the beginning of 16th century. It was consecrated to St. Jacob as well as the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. This is why Renko church was a popular pilgrimage destination before Reformation. Church has an octagonal exterior, which is quite unique in Finnish post-medieval architecture (it's the only one existing octagonal church in Finland).
Founded: 1495-1505 | Location: Renko, Finland

Sastamala Church

The church of Sastamala in Karkku (dedicated to St. Mary) was built in the end of 15th century. In the Middle Ages Karkku was the spiritual and administrative center for the northern Satakunta area. Unfortunately church was nearly abandoned for decades in the 19th and 20th centuries. During this time for example the floor was destroyed. The church was renovated in 1960-1977 and today it's used mainly for summer ceremonies ...
Founded: 1497-1505 | Location: Sastamala, Finland

Nauvo Church

The Nauvo Church was built probably between years 1430 and 1450 and it's dedicated to St. Olaf. The mural paintings were made in the 17th century. The most significant artefact in church is the crucifix from the beginning of 15th century. The oldest music instrument in Finland, organs called "Nauvon positiivi" (built probably in 1664), was originally in the Nauvo church. today it's preserved to the National Museum of Finl ...
Founded: 1430-1450 | Location: Nauvo, Finland

The Church of St. Lawrence

The church of Janakkala is a typical medieval stone church. Building was started in 1510 and completed 1520. The author and initiator of the church building was a war marshall Åke Tott.
Founded: 1510-1520 | Location: Janakkala, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.