The Old Church of Helsinki is situated on the northern edge of a square-shaped park, also called the Plague Park. The name dates back to the 1710s when the victims of a serious epidemy were buried here, at the time well out of town. As the plan of the new capital was laid in the 1810s, this block was reserved for a suburban church.
Up to 1824 the old 18th century Ulrika Eleonora Church, standing in the way of the monumental Senate Square, had served the needs of all residents of the town. As the square was being built and the design for the new, imposing cathedral on its northern edge had been approved, it became necessary to clear the square of old structures. Engel was therefore commissioned to design a temporary wooden church to be placed on the site reserved for the suburban church.
The church was built between 1825 and 1826 and the old cemetery was officially converted into a park in 1829. The pulpit, some chandeliers and pews and the organ of the older Ulrika Eleonora Church were transported into the new church. The temporary wooden building designed and realised under the aesthetic scrutiny of Engel was never demolished and is today a beloved building with a characteristic atmosphere.
The timber-structured building is a hall church with Tuscan square columns dividing the hall into three aisles. These columns are masonry and support the high wooden vault covering the main aisle. The building is an elongated cross in plan and when seen from the shorter end, the shape resembles that of a Palladian villa with a strong centre, designated by an open tower. The maintenance of the wooden building requires regular oil painting and the façade surfaces testify of almost 200 years of layers.
text: Kati Winterhalter