You might have spotted the Kallio church from afar but not given it another thought. In fact, it’s a beautiful church with an interesting history, so it’s worth taking another look. My colleagues and I had the unique opportunity of going up the tower to see the magnificent views of Helsinki from above the rooftops.
Building the church started in 1908 and it was completed in 1912 – the building style representing romantic nationalism. The church was designed by Lars Sonck, who also designed the Mikael Agricola church in Helsinki and other churches around the country. It is interesting to know that the whole neighbourhood helped in constructing the impressive granite building . This meant lugging huge boulders of rock up the hill.
The church is 65 meters high from ground and 94 meters high from sea level to the highest point of the cross.
The Kallio church is has great acoustics, thus it is often used as a concert venue. I have attended one Christmas concert there and it was very ambient. There are seats for 1100 people.
There is a wooden crucifix behind that lamp but I failed to photograph it.
As you can see, the altar was made of stone, to match the outside of the church. The altarpiece is from 1956 and it is made of wood. The artist, Hannes Autere, used the people living in Kallio as models.
When I attended a Christmas concert here, I sat in one of these balconies.
The decorations above the windows look their best when candles are lighted underneath.
It’s great to see that churches are modernizing the way they work – there was a corner for children to play during services.
Something very unique about this church – even for Finland – is the columbarium in the basement. There are actual urns there (2500 at one time) but there is also a special rock grave, into which ashes can be placed. You cannot visit, as it’s only accessible for loved ones when an urn is placed there. On the back walls of the church, you can see the memorial wall, on which the names of those whose urns are stored in the church can be seen.
And then, it was time to start our climb to the tower.
It’s not for the fainthearted.
Three from our group had to turn back, as it got too scary.
There are seven bronze bells in the tower. You can hear them everyday at midday and 6 pm. I used to work in this area and I have no recollection of the church bells ringing!
Up in the tower, there are four doors, each leading to their own balcony.
The views are probably the best in Helsinki.
It’s fun to look at what’s going on down below.
Now this photo below shows you very well how the church ends the longest straight street axis in Helsinki. There’s a laser beam from the church tower to the other end in winter, so keep a lookout for that.
Spot the cute rooftop terrace with red chairs!
Silja Line in the distance.
Workers on the roof.
That’s the fire station down there.
The jugend building with orange roofs is the Kallio library from 1912. If you are in the area, pop in to see it inside.
Can you see the rollercoaster on the right? That’s Linnanmäki amusement park.
The Helsinki cathedral on the left and St John’s church on the right – in the distance.
Interesting fact – the church tower was used for air surveillance during the World War II. Also, the church was the initial point for land surveying in Finland till the 1970s. This plaque below indicates that.
After our little tour, we walked to the area known as Tokoinranta. Here the bay is so shallow that only motorboats can enter.
You can find a modern restaurant there called Café Piritta. They have a nice terrace facing the bay which basks in the sunshine all day long.
Not a bad sight at all.
Unfortunately this area is known for the fact that drunks like to hang around there, so some people may shy of going. I would still recommend you do, as it’s nice to walk around the bay and the café’s terrace is lovely.
People in Finland really love sunshine!
I know many of you will now be wanting to visit the tower. Unfortunately it’s not a tourist attraction so you must make a special appointment to visit. This can be done by contacting the congregation, for example by email well in advance. It took me months to arrange the visit! It could be that no-one is available to take you, as the staff working there do it on top of their daily work. Also, it’s good to know that there’s no safety netting or such. If you are afraid of heights I cannot recommend you even try, as the stairs in themselves are quite terrifying.
Have you had a chance to see Helsinki from above? Where was it?