Temppeliaukio (otherwise known to non-locals as the rock church) is conveniently located in the very heart of Helsinki, in a district called Töölö. The rock church attracts roughly half a million people each year, and is incredibly famous for its unique design. It is in fact often one of the first things that people want to see when they come to Helsinki!
The Rock church was a ground breaking project designed by two brothers – Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, locally known as the Suomalainen brothers. In 1906, the area of southern Töölö underwent the initial stages of planning, and a location for what was to be a church for the area, was reserved. However, the church was not built until the year 1969 – over 60 years later. It took a total of three competitions to create an architectural design that satisfied the parish council. But even after the design of the church was accepted, the project still faced a lot of criticism – caused by a difficult situation in the world, particularly the African unrest. Some locals tended to promote the opinion that the Töölö district already had enough churches, and the money required for its construction could be better used somewhere else.
The unrest in Africa related mainly to an unrecognized republic called Biafra. It caused many Finnish students to turn against the Rock church project. They claimed that the money should be spent on the needs of the suffering people in Biafra. On a summer night in 1968, a group of students decided to openly express their opinion, and wrote the word ‘Biafra’ on the exterior walls of the church, in graffiti. Some people believe that it was the first graffiti that was recorded in Finland.
Nevertheless, all the uprising challenges of the Rock Church were overcome, and the project was eventually completed in 1969. To satisfy partially those who were against the building of the church, the project was built on a smaller scale than was originally designed, and all of the budget that was originally planned was not used.
The main unique feature of the church is that it is excavated directly into a rock, and the experience of entering the church is literally that of going into a cave. These untouched rock surfaces inside are multi-purpose; they not only give a natural look and feel to the church in a very unusual way, but they also create incredible sound acoustics. For this exact reason, the Rock church today often serves as a music venue, and if you’re lucky, you can even hear an organ recital on certain days!
The address for the Rock Church is Lutherinkatu 3. By taking tram number 2 from the central railway station, you can arrive at the rock church in only 15 minutes. Alternatively you can walk there in around 20 minutes.
Whilst you are already in the beautiful Töölö district, nearby is the famous Sibelius monument – another place high on the list of places to see in Helsinki – a monument honoring a man who is closely in the hearts of the Finnish people. If you would like to try coffee and cake in one of the most traditional cafes in Helsinki (with arguably one of the best views!) you can also visit the famous cafe Regatta.
Enjoy your sightseeing of the Töölö district!
Helsinki Guru ^^