The beautiful Oulu Cathedral stands in Oulu’s monumental centre, on the same site where several church buildings were located over the centuries, with the oldest dating back to the late sixteenth century. The wooden church that was built on the site in the 1610s was replaced by a cathedral designed by Daniel Hagman of Sweden and completed in 1777. The cathedral, built of natural stone, was so big that all the 2,400 inhabitants of Oulu could fit in it at the same time!
Throughout the centuries, densely-built wooden towns were vulnerable to urban fires. The Oulu fire of 1822 completely destroyed the wooden structures of the cathedral. The movable property was saved in time, and the fire left only the stone walls standing. The current stone cathedral was completed in 1832 according to the neoclassical designs of C. L. Engel. The most notable work of art in the cathedral is the portrait of Johannes Messenius, painted in 1611.
Among the cloud cherry trees in the garden is the Pikku-Sofia church for children. It is a model of Oulu’s very first wooden church from the late sixteenth century.
Haukipudas church: a display of the masterful touch of Mikael Toppelius
In Haukipudas, you can admire the colourful church paintings of Oulu master painter Mikael Toppelius in the wooden church that was completed in 1762. Its murals show baroque and rococo themes, but they also show the influences of Chinese art, which at the time was something of a fashion.
The painting of the last judgment, completely covering one wall, is said to be Finland’s most significant baroque-style composition. Toppelius was prolific in his painting of Haukipudas church: the paintings span a total of over 150 metres, and are an experience for any visitor interested in the history of art and churches.
The art nouveau influence in Oulu’s churches
The national romantic spirit of the twentieth century was brought to life in the architecture of Oulujoki church, completed in 1907. The church was designed by the architect Viktor J. Sucksdorff of Oulu province, and also contains Karelian influences. The atmospheric church is the only preserved wooden church in the art nouveau style in Northern Finland.
In 1984, as a result of the restoration work planned by Anna-Kaisa Ylimaula, the church was restored as closely as possible to its original appearance. Visitors to the church can see how the roof and the bell tower in particular reach upwards. On the second clock of the tower, an inscription has been made asking for a blessing for the Finnish people.
The church of Turkansaari, built in 1694
The oldest wooden church in the Oulu urban area serves as a summer church and is located in Madekoski, in the Turkansaari open-air museum area. Nowadays it functions as a beautiful wedding venue for many summer weddings. In the Middle Ages, the island was the westernmost marketplace for Russians and Karelians. As was typical of the time, the church was built in connection with the marketplace. The fishing industry also had an important role on the island.
When the days of trade and fishing were over, the church was demolished and transferred to Raati island, where it served for years as a storehouse until Östen Elfving, founder of the open-air museum, bought it and returned it to original location in 1922.