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The Porvoo Cathedral was originally made of wood.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

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.