Few buildings are more emblematic of Turku than the towering cathedral at its center. Turun Tuomiokirrko in Finnish, the Turku cathedral is one of the must-see in Turku, with its rich past and impressive architecture.
A 1814 watercolor of the cathedral by architect Carl Ludvig Engel, who incidentally designed Helsinki Cathedral and the Vartivuori Observatory in Turku. Source.
An old, old building
Although the exact date of the cathedral’s construction remains unknown, it is thought that it goes back to the end of the XIIth century or the beginning on the XIIIth. This makes the cathedral around 700 years old.
The building has also evolved substantially through those 700 years. It has been expanded, renovated, redecorated quite a few times. The last major changes have happened after the great fire that destroyed most of Turku in 1827. The bell tower was then rebuilt in its current form (you can see how it looked before in the picture above).
Significance of Turku Cathedral
With a building that old, it is normal that it has acquired a special status in Turku, and even in Finland. The cathedral is the seat of the Lutheran church of Finland. It is also considered the most culturally significant building in Finland.
Notably, however, the cathedral was a catholic church until the reformation came to Finland, in the XVth century.
The significance of the cathedral also lies in the people resting under it. Among the most famous is the tomb of Karin Månsdotter, who was queen of Sweden for a few months in 1568. A small chapel is dedicated to her.
The custom of burying important people under the church was discontinued in 1784, mainly for hygiene reasons. In total, it is estimated that as many as 4,500 people are buried underneath the cathedral’s floor.
It is still possible to see some of the soot left by the 1827 fire on the inside of the bell tower of Turku Cathedral.
The mechanism of the clock. The four shafts transmit the movement to the hands on the outside of the bell tower.
One of the interesting features of the Turku Cathedral is its clock. Even though it is impossible to know its exact age, it is considered to be one of, if not the, oldest clock in Finland.
Since the bell tower was almost completely destroyed, the clock fell during the fire, twisting and breaking many of its parts. It was restored later and is now still functional.
The 12 o’clock ring of the clock has been broadcast on public radio since 1944. It is still possible to hear it every day on Yle Radio 1.
As can be seen from the outside, the fact that the Turku cathedral has known so many modifications has affected its style. Now, it can be best described as being a mix of roman, Gothic, and neo-Gothic styles.
The cathedral is open to the public every day. It is possible order a tour, and during the summer time there are regular tours every day. There is also a museum in the cathedral, where it is possible to see a number of interesting religious objects, although the descriptions are only in Finnish and Swedish.
I was lucky enough to participate to a tour organized by the student unions of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University in the spring of 2016, so this is where some of the photo found in this post are from.
I’ll conclude this post with some photos from the top of the bell tower.
Living in Finland for more than three years, Michel is a Canadian student who is now completing his master’s degree in ÅAU. His interests are quite diversified and include ice hockey, history, fishing, as well as many other things. He is also a member of the student ambassador network of South-West Finland.