Sacred Places: The Church of Rock

June 20, 2011

Copper Dome, Temppeliaukio Kirkko (Rock Church), Helsinki

The Temppeliaukio Kirkko was designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. Construction began in 1968 and was finished a year later in 1969. The architects chose a rocky outcrop rising about 40 feet above street level, and blasted out the walls from the inside.

Lutheran Altar

The Temppeliaukio is now most commonly known by its English name, the Rock Church or Church in the Rock.

The underground Rock Church is built inside of a massive block of natural granite in the middle of an ordinary residential square. From ground level, the shape resembles the ancient tomb at Newgrange, Ireland. But the structure is barely visible from outside, with only the copper dome poking out of the rock – it looks like a flying saucer has lodged itself in the ground.

A close encounter

Inside, the church is circular and enclosed by walls of bare rock. The ceiling is a giant disc made of copper wire. The interior is lit by natural light streaming through 180 vertical window panes that connect the dome and the wall.

Temppeliaukio is not just used for church services, however – concerts are regularly held here and have become justly famous. Sitting in the simple wooden pews to listen to music is a unique experience; the acoustics in the church are excellent, enriching a moment of spirituality that combines deep, atavistic feelings and poetic imagination.

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