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:
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