Architect
Adolf Emil Melander
Competition
1879
Completion
1891
Themes
Helsinki Landmarks
Category
Assembly buildings
Tags
brick church copper landmark Neo-Gothic tower

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 The tops of the spires were originally made of brickwork, but they were clad in copper in 1911, and the smaller corner spires were clad in copper in 1934.

Location

Korkeavuorenkatu 12, Helsinki
60.16184938, 24.94505882

Images

St. Johns Church photographed from north, St. John’s Church
St. Johns Church photographed from north, St. John’s Church (© Sakari Kiuru / HKM)
Aerial view, St. John’s Church
Aerial view, St. John’s Church (© SKY-Foto Möller / HK)
St. John's Church photographed in the 1960s, St. John’s Church
St. John's Church photographed in the 1960s, St. John’s Church (© Constantin Grünberg / HKM)
The church photographed in 1914, St. John’s Church
The church photographed in 1914, St. John’s Church (© A. E. Rosenbröijer / HKM)