Monday, June 5, 2017

Touring Finland: Rock Church (Helsinki)


So you're going to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, and you're thinking of staying over to see Finland. Good decision! You won't regret it.

I am far from being expert at touring Finland. But I did spend a week wandering about it once and had a fabulous time. So I'm starting an occasional series of posts on things to see in that beautiful land.

Today: Temppeliaukio Church in the heart of Helsinki, at the end of Fredrikinkatu. Also known as Rock Church. In 1969, the church was blasted and jackhammered into a rocky knoll surrounded by lovely old buildings. The result is very modern, with raw stone walls vaulted by a copper dome that seems to float overhead.

How you respond to this depends largely on how you feel about modern architecture. The French, I am told, take one glance and run screaming into the outer darkness, appalled by the lack of ornamentation, gilt, carved cherubs, and the like. But there are usually Japanese tourists present, sitting in reverent admiration of the austere simplicity and beauty of the space.

The rock walls and copper ceiling, as it turns out, combine to create ravishing acoustics and, as a result, many concerts are held there. It is also much in demand as practice space.

When Marianne and I first arrived in Helsinki, dragging our wheeled suitcases behind us, our friend Tino insisted that we go several blocks out of our way to see the church. We did, and when we walked in, discovered an ensemble of 19 trombones practicing a piece which, in retrospect, we decided must have been composed by Arvo Pärt. It was a magical introduction to a country which is, let's not forget, the home of the Kalevala.

Thank you, Tino.


No comments: