The Rock Church in Helsinki (or Temppeliaukio to give it its proper name) is a modern church built underground. All that can be seen from the outside is the massive copper dome hidden in a rocky outcrop, but the interior is a harmonious blend of modern and traditional building materials. It is one of the city’s major tourist attractions, as we discovered when we visited.
A Popular Tourist Attraction
Arriving ten minutes before opening time we had a wander around the rock and the domed roof that is the only part of the church visible from the outside and then walked around the block while we waited. When we returned the doors had opened and a whole group of people had appeared from nowhere to fill up the church. They were clearly a tour from a cruise ship so I decided to wait until they moved on before taking my photographs.
Unfortunately, no sooner were they out of the door than the next group were in, and so on for the whole time we were there! However, despite the crowds it was well worth visiting, particularly since there was an impromptu piano recital taking place as we walked around.
Construction Of Temppeliaukio
Often known simply as the Rock Church, Temppeliaukio was built by quarrying inside the rock to create a vast underground space. A 24 metre copper dome was placed at the top and surrounded by skylights to provide natural lighting for the church. Prepare to be startled by the sight of the interior, with its mix of materials. The walls are formed of rough natural rock, a striking contrast to the smooth copper balcony that runs around the edge. The whole is supported by concrete beams and the ceiling is formed from copper wire. The visual effect is completed by the wooden pews with purple covering, granite altar and modern pipe organ.
The organ is the only fixture that was not designed by the architects and there was controversy over its final design. It has 43 stops and 3,001 pipes. As with the rest of the church it is untraditional in style. Concerts of organ and other music often take place here, including events from the Helsinki Spring Light Chamber Music Festival. The church is also sometimes used as a recording studio.
The design of the church means that it does not have a bell tower; instead a recording of bells is played through loudspeakers on the outside wall.
Visiting The Rock Church
Temppeliaukio is open from 10.00-20.00 on weekdays (except Wednesday); 10.00-18.30 on Wednesday; 10.00-18.00 on Saturday; and 12.00-13.45, 15.30-18.00 on Sunday. It is closed on Tuesdays in winter, and during services and events. Other than for events there is no entrance charge.
Details of musical performances are displayed on the noticeboard at the entrance. There is an English language service each Sunday at 14.00.
You may find the church less crowded towards the end of the day.
And, while you are in the city, have a look at our guide to Eating Out in Helsinki.