One of the most famous sights in Helsinki is definetely the Rock Church. Officially called Tempeliaukio Church (Temple square…) the place features some unique architechture: the church is constructed partially underground, inside the solid bedrock. Only a dome rises slightly above the ground featuring small windows to let natural light shine to the altar during certain times of a day.
Why build a church under the bedrock? The thing is that Finland happens to be located in a place where bedrock is often visible, unlike in most places where a large amount of soil sits on top of it. So in southern Finland it´s relatively easy to build in bedrock. And Helsinki actually does have a lot of caves and tunnels below the city: a metro line, huge halls for parking, water tanks, bomb shelters (yes, really), city warehouses, service roads, sports arenas… There´s another city underground. A city that most of us don´t really get to see.
History and architechture of the Rock Church
The church designed by architech brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen was opened in 1969. Original plans to build a church in that location were made in the 30s, but were put on hold due to World War 2. After the war another competition to design the church was held, won by Suomalainen brothers.
When the construction was underway it was discovered that the bare rock walls had incredible acoustics. Therefore plans were altered and the rock walls were left practically untouched, making the acoustics inside the church really good. Therefore it is also really popular concert venue.
One fun fact about it is that this church has no bells. Therefore a recording of church bells is played on loudspeakers outside the church.
Half million visitors
About 500 000 tourists visit the Rock Church every year. A large number by Finnish standards. Many city tours make a stop there, making a line of buses circling the square a common sight. It is open every day, when there are no special events. You can enter for a 3 € fee to admire it from inside.
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This is The Rock Church on a map: