Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Finland

The round Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki was carved directly into the bare rock and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year with its unusual appearance.

The Protestant Temppeliaukio Church in the centre of the Finnish capital Helsinki is one of the most architecturally unusual churches in the world. With around 500,000 visitors every year, the exquisite place of worship is a major attraction in Finland's capital.


PICTURES: Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki


Temppeliaukio Church is located in the Etu-Töölö district about one kilometre west of Helsinki's main railway station. The first plans for the church were drawn up in the 1930s after an architectural competition was held for an undeveloped area of land. It was decided in 1906 that a church should be built here. However, the construction at that time was scrapped by the outbreak of the Second World War.

The unusually shaped Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Finland, is visited by half a million people every year - © Mmartin / Shutterstock
© Mmartin / Shutterstock

The brothers Timo and Tuomo Soumalainen won the new tender and the church was inaugurated in September 1969. Originally, the Temppeliaukio Church was to have been four times as large, but for economic reasons the plans were changed. Today, the unusual church in the Expressionist style is considered an extraordinary example of Finnish architecture in the 1960s.

Church in the rock

The appearance of the Temppeliaukio Church is so unusual because, firstly, it has an oval floor plan and, secondly, it is built directly into the rock. It is therefore also called the "Church of the Rock".

Even the cross of the Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki has a modern design and bears witness to the expressionist style of the place of worship, Finland - © Lars Kastilan / Shutterstock
© Lars Kastilan / Shutterstock

The 5-8 metre high granite walls can be seen completely unhewn inside the church and, together with the 13m high ceiling, give the interior a unique flair. The Temppeliaukio Church does without pomp and pageantry at all. The 24m wide dome is made of polished copper and the floor of simple concrete. The stone altar and the wooden organ on the bare rock wall are almost inconspicuous.

Sunlight streams into the interior through a total of 180 narrow and high windows, providing an equally unique illumination of the church. Incidentally, there is neither a bell tower nor bells in the Temppeliaukio Church; the ringing of the church bells can be heard through loudspeakers on the outside walls.

The stone altar and wooden organ on the bare rock wall of Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Finland, are almost unremarkable - © Kekyalyaynen / Shutterstock
© Kekyalyaynen / Shutterstock

Due to its unique acoustics created by the rough rock, the church is used not only for services of the Protestant parish, but also for concerts.

Criticism of Helsinki's Rock Church

At the beginning, the population was not at all convinced by the design of the new place of worship. They wanted a traditional church as opposed to the planned "rock mosque" or "devil's den", as the media reported. Likewise, rumours circulated about the huge cost of the church. Students even branded the stone foundation of the church with the word "Biafra" to indicate that the sums apparently consumed by the construction were to be donated to the victims of the famine in Biafra.

Sunlight streams into the interior of Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Finland, through a total of 180 narrow and high windows - © Kekyalyaynen / Shutterstock
© Kekyalyaynen / Shutterstock

Nevertheless, just two years after its inauguration, the Temppeliaukio Church was visited by 100,000 people and the masses were also always well attended. In the meantime, Temppeliaukio Church is one of Helsinki's most important architectural sights and is the first choice for numerous weddings and baptisms.

Tip: The opening hours of the Tempeliaukio Church vary from week to week, so it's best to call ahead or ask on site!