S:t John's Church

In the late nineteenth century, St John’s Church, Helsinki, was built on a hill in what were then the outskirts of the city. Designed by Adolf Emil Melander of Stockholm, the church building was completed in 1891. St John’s Church was originally called the New Church, as it was built to accommodate the growing population of Helsinki when Vanha kirkko (the Old Church) and St Nicholas Church (the present Cathedral) proved to be too small. The new church, which was built on the hill where Midsummer fires had traditionally been burned, was dedicated to St John the Baptist.

Johanneskyrkan uppifrån

St John’s Church was built as a basilica with a central nave and two aisles. It is Finland’s largest stone church, and originally seated 3,000 people. In later years, to make the church more flexible, several rows of pews were removed. Today, the church seats just over 2,200 people. The church is 59.38 metres long and the central nave measures 42.75 metres. The towers stand 74.22 metres high. The bells of St John’s Church ring in the three first notes (C-sharp, E and F-sharp) of the Te Deum hymn and were put in place in 1932.

Along the walls of the aisles are a series of wood reliefs made in Italy. They constitute the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross, showing the Via Dolorosa from Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to death on the Cross to his being placed in the tomb. During Lent, Via Crucis devotions are regularly held at St John’s Church, giving people the chance to walk the Way of the Cross from station to station, listening to the readings and praying the corresponding prayers.

The church was last renovated before its centennial in 1991. At that time the basement of the church was redesigned as a crypt.

The coloured window panes, like the light fittings and the altar decorations, were supplied by Josef Leja of Stockholm. The four brass wall sconces closest to the altar carry the symbols of the four Evangelists. Next to the main entrance of the church is a statue of John the Baptist, sculpted in 2003 by Kari Juva.

n 1891, a competition was held to provide the church with an altarpiece. Both first and second place were won by Albert Edelfelt. However, Edelfelt objected to the limited space the architect had allowed for the painting, and this conflict of interest halted the process. It was four decades later before the Beatific Vision by Eero Järnefelt was placed in the church in 1932. The subject of the altarpiece is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Christianity and his becoming the apostle Paul.

Bild tagen uppifrån på Sixten Enlund som spelar på Johanneskyrkans kororgel. Tagen av Nina Lindfors.

The main organ of St John’s Church was built in 1891 by the world-renowned German company E.F. Walcker & Cie of Ludwigsburg. With its tubular-pneumatic action, it represented the latest technology in organ-building. Having 61 registers, the organ was also at the time the largest in Finland. The church’s first organist, Oskar Merikanto, had the organ broadened in 1921. After a couple of less successful attempts at rebuilding the organ in 1937 and 1956, also done by Walcker, the organ was excellently restored in 2004–05 by Christian Scheffler Orgelwerkstatt in Germany. The organ now has 66 registers and a total of 4036 pipes.

The English-style choir organ was built by Urkurakentamo Veikko Virtanen Oy of Espoo and installed in 2018. The organ has 9 registers and a movable keyboard. The façade pipes are marbleised and painted in the hues of the original church interior. The church got its current range of colours when it was repainted in 1913.

Due to its central location and imposing stature, St John’s Church is popular for weddings. The excellent acoustics also make it a much favoured concert venue.

The main Sunday service at St John’s Parish is held each Sunday at noon. In addition to which, there is a midday prayer every weekday at noon from September through May. For more information about activities in S:t John's Church visit the website of S:t John's parish.

S:t John's Parish

S:t Johns church
Korkeavuorenkatu 12
00120 Helsinki
Phone number: +358 9 2340 7730