Uspenski Cathedral

Orthodox Church in Helsinki

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The Uspenski Cathedral is one of Helsinki’s attractions that visitors to the Finnish capital should definitely plan to visit. Every year, more than 500,000 worshippers and holidaymakers are drawn to this special Orthodox church. Due to its central yet elevated location on the Katajanokka peninsula, the structure with its 13 domes is easy to see and find. Two bridges connect the peninsula with the eastern mainland of the city.

Facts about the history of construction

The design of the church Russian-Byzantine style is due to the architect Alexei M. Gornostaev. The plans for this building were made from 1809, after the end of the Finnish War. The Treaty of Fredrikshamn stipulated that larger parts of Finland passed from Sweden to Russia. Finally, Helsinki became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812. As a result of the establishment of the administration, an increasing number of Russian soldiers, officials and civilians settled in Helsinki. Since most of them were Orthodox believers, an Orthodox church was to be built. It took 59 years from the first plans to the completion of the Uspenski Cathedral: the church was consecrated on October 13, 1868.

Importance of the Cathedral as Orthodox Church

Especially in Finland, whose population is mostly of Evangelical Lutheran faith, such an imposing Orthodox church is a speciality. In fact, the Uspenski Cathedral is considered the largest Orthodox building in Western Europe. Even from a distance, the 13 towers with their gilded spires are eye-catching. 12 of the towers stand for the apostles and one for Jesus. After its completion, the cathedral was considered above all as a symbol of power of Russia. However, the church also reflects the tolerance of the Finns of other faiths.

As there are regular church services in the Uspenski Cathedral, holidaymakers have the chance to take part in an orthodox service. Those who are only interested in visiting the building should definitely be considerate of those who may be attending a service.

Sights inside the building

With the orientation of the main axis to the east and with the conspicuous towers, the Uspenski Cathedral shows typical features of orthodox church buildings. The same applies to the design of the church interior: There are neither pews nor chairs, but the entire space is very splendidly furnished. Four columns made of solid granite support the main dome, which is designed like a starry sky. Numerous colorful mosaics decorate the interior walls. Also typical of an Orthodox church are the icons, religious paintings and gilded sacraments. The exterior and interior architecture of this building has plenty to see – even for those who don’t count themselves churchgoers. An additional highlight for all visitors to the cathedral is the beautiful view over Helsinki and the harbour area from the church square.