If you have travelled around Europe for more than a couple of weeks, you become very accustomed to the expression “ABC” or another bloody cathedral/church. Every major city, town or small village is adorned with a church perched on prime real estate which is hundreds of years old rich in history, art and religious symbolism. They are remarkable architectural achievements (such as in the photo below of St Stephens in Vienna) that stand in testimony to the significance religion has played throughout the ages.
The first couple you see are uplifting experiences, wandering around for hours in silent reverence, soaking in each small chapel, fresco, icon and grave. Photos are joyously snapped of each element of the cathedral.
In the next couple, the pace quickens and only the more remarkable elements of the cathedrals are cause for a considered pause and a photo. After a couple more, though no less spectacular or significant, you start to steer well clear and develop a nauseous uncomfortable fear that you’ll be sucked inside and start screaming “let me out, it’s another ABC“. After a few days, the churches all blur into a fog with only the most remarkable elements even surviving your short term memory.
Helsinki’s cathedral is entirely different. This travel wonder doesn’t even look like a cathedral. Indeed, at first sight, it looks more like a nuclear fallout shelter than a haven for spiritual enlightenment or private reflection. The entrance is little more than a dark concrete tunnel. What you see when you get inside is certainly a surprise.
Built only forty years ago, the stunning Temppeliaukio Cathedral (in the unusually named Töölö) is gouged out of the suburban bedrock with the walls being simply the unfinished rough rock walls. The cathedral is bathed in natural light which streams through a string of windows that sit between the rock walls and the polished copper ceiling. A large copper pipe organ matches the gleaming ceiling with the rocky exterior making for a blissful acoustic setting.
Its unusual design and stunning architectural use of natural light and rock means that Temppeliaukio Cathedral is remembered well after many other cathedrals have faded from memory. If touring the travel wonders of Finland, this striking cathedral must be on your agenda. It is anything but another bloody cathedral.