- 400 m
As Helsinki’s population continued to grow throughout the 19th century, the city’s Swedish-speaking parishioners came to the conclusion that they needed a new church. The Old Church located in a park with the same name (also known as Plague park) and the Church of St Nicholas (the current Cathedral) on Senate Square were not sufficient for the churchgoers’ needs. A location was assigned for a new church on the southern outskirts of the city, on a hill where the Midsummer bonfires had traditionally been lit. Following an international design competition arranged in 1879, A. E. Melander, a Swedish architect, was commissioned to do the design work.
The new church – St John’s Church – is a neo-gothic revival of the architecture of Europe’s medieval cathedrals. Its Gothic features include the pointed arches of the windows and doors, soaring vertical lines, the series of colonnettes at the entrances, round windows and the richly ornate façade. The approximately 3000 ornaments were cast from concrete, which was a new technique in Finland. The cast-iron spiral staircases in the spires also represented the latest in construction technology.
The distinctive twin spires are easily recognisable in Helsinki’s skyline. When the spires were almost complete, with only the final 9 metres, i.e. the crocketed pinnacles, to add, Helsinki was hit by an unusually violent autumn storm. The storm blew down the scaffolding and lifts, but the spires withstood the onslaught. The tops of the spires were originally made of brickwork, but they were clad in copper in 1911, and the smaller corner spires were clad in copper in 1934.