On Ristimäki hill in Ravattula, remains of an early medieval church were found in 2013. The remains have been dated to the late 12th century–early 13th century, in other words to the end of the Finnish Crusade period and the Early Middle Ages. The church is so far the oldest in Finland and also the only one dating from the period before the establishment of Finnish parish system. Ristimäki is exceptionally well preserved: the site comprises a church, a churchyard that served as burial ground, and a fence surrounding the churchyard.
Ristimäki (lit. Cross Hill) church was a wooden building that was constructed on a stone footing. The church consisted of two rooms: in the western end, there was a square nave and in the eastern end, a slightly smaller narrow choir in which the altar was located. The walls were presumably built by using a horizontal timbering technique and the floor was covered with planks. Today, only the stone footing and the foundation of the altar remain of the Ristimäki church. The corners of the church building and the location of the altar have been marked on the ground.
The church remains are surrounded by a churchyard with dozens of graves. Thus far only a few graves have been archaeologically examined. Most graves are located right in the vicinity of the church as it was regarded as the most valuable place for burying. According to radiocarbon datings, the burial ground may have already been in use a century before the construction of the church begun. Remains of a stone setting of a fence that surrounded the churchyard have so far been found on the south-western side of the hill.
On the basis of natural scientific datings and finds, it seems that the use of the church and the churchyard ceased during the second quarter of the 13th century. Perhaps the church was destroyed by fire, or it was abandoned and left to decay. Around that time, the parochial organisation in Finland began and the religious life appears to have concentrated in the newly established parish centre.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.