The Rock Church in Helsinki: a worthy architectural achievement

The Rock Church, a main attraction in Helsinki

When checking the most popular tourist sites in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, the Rock Church ranks among the first results. But what could a rock church possibly be? A church for rock’n’roll bands to perform? A former church rehabilitated into a rock’n’roll museum? A church for the rock’n’roll lovers community in Helsinki? A church built with a rare type of stone?

Que nenni, the Rock Church (Temppeliaukio) is a Lutheran church that was built in a solid rock in the centre of Helsinki – hence its name! It was completed in 1969 by the two architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen who have achieved here a genuine architectural performance! These were enough hints to arouse my curiosity and head to the Töölö district of Helsinki to visit this intriguing place.

A mysterious exterior

Arriving from the opposite side to the entrance, one can climb and walk on the “church’s roof”. It is hard to imagine that a church lies under this “bunker-like” dome surrounded by a stone wall. On that day, the setting and grey sky created a sort of supernatural atmosphere stimulating my imagination: what if the dome was a flying saucer from which tons of aliens would disembark? Enough daydreaming, let’s enter the architects’ imagination.

The roof of the Rock Church in Helsinki
The roof of the Rock Church in Helsinki

A well-thought interior: decoration, light, and acoustics

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best. This saying explains rightly the church’s architecture and interior decoration. All the symbolic elements of a church are to be found – the imposing organ, the dome, the candles, the cross, flowers, the altarpiece, benches divided by an alley, a painting of Jesus Christ (although not hanging), everything apart from bells. By twisting these elements in an elegant way and not overdisplaying them, visitors can actually contemplate each piece of architecture separately. A particularly interesting detail is the copper dome surrounded by a row of windows enabling natural light to enter into the church. The “separators” form a fascinating  light and shadow effect.

Interior of the Rock Church in Helsinki
Interior of the Rock Church in Helsinki

It is said that the rock walls allow for a better acoustic and this is why the church hosts many concerts nowadays (maybe rock concerts? 😉 ). Sitting on an original blue and mauve bench, I was waiting for the noon service to start. Of course, this had to be done with originality as well. Instead, what a delightful surprise to see three young ladies tuning their instruments and start playing symphonies from renowned Finnish and Russian composers.

Beyond normality, between the past and modernity, authentic, the rock church is must-stop over a stay in Helsinki.

Address: Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki
Entrance fee: 3€

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