Uspenski Cathedral – Modeled after a 16th century church near Moscow:
There are many churches in Helsinki city centre and one of the most notable is the Uspenski Cathedral. A visit to this landmark cathedral in Finland’s capital is certainly worthwhile and should be included in your Helsinki things to do list.
About Uspenski Cathedral
Completed in 1868, it is reportedly the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe. Though Finland may not exactly qualify as ‘west’. But whatever the status of that record, the church is a spectacular sight and represents Helsinki’s Byzantine-Russian architectural heritage.
Set atop a hill the site makes for an amazing sight from far away, that just becomes more impressive the closer one gets. From as far away as the city’s active marketplace it’s possible to see the huge structure.
Thanks to a very open space surrounding it, one can get a panoramic view of the entire building from fifty metres away, then enjoy a close up view walking up the hill. Turning around, one gets a great view of the city below.
The cathedral is a functioning religious centre and the centre of the Finnish Orthodox Church, numbering about 60,000 members. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Helsinki, which has administrative ties to the Patriarchate in Constantinople.
A Magnificent Structure
But anyone, no matter what their beliefs, can enjoy the splendour that is this magnificent structure in Helsinki. The deep red walls form a striking base for the green and gold domes.
Built in the Russian-Byzantine style, the cathedral’s architecture was modeled after a 16th century church near Moscow. The building is covered in red brick and provides an outstanding link into Finland’s past. The bricks were brought from a fortress destroyed during the Crimean War, Bomarsund Fortress in Aland.
Its huge central dome is supported atop four enormous granite pillars. Many others (technically ‘cupolas’) – in the familiar onion-shaped style common to Russian Orthodox churches – surround it. Thirteen in all, they are symbolic of Jesus and the Apostles.
Beneath the domes are a series of superbly shaped and adorned arches and Byzantine-style crosses. In the interior can be seen the large iconostasis, a wall of religious paintings and icons, executed by Russian artists. On the southern side there is a three-story belltower that gives the one at Notre- Dame in Paris some good competition.
Around the interior, as is common in many 19th century or older religious buildings, there are icons galore. But, less common, Uspenski Cathedral has a display of chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling that would be the envy of kings and queens.
The Cathedral closes early on the weekends, so check the opening hours before you visit. (Mon-Fri 9:30-16:00, Sat 9:30-14:00, Sun Noon-15:00. It is closed on Mondays during October to April .)
Unioninkatu 39 A 19
00170 Helsinki, Finland