The View from Helsinki Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral is an icon of the city and goes by many names, in Finnish its called Tuomiokirkko. Events and gatherings take place throughout the year in Senate Square with the Cathedral as its backdrop, locals gather on the steps during the summer, and its domes can be seen from all over the city.

As soon as I knew I was leaving Helsinki one building came to mind, the Helsinki Cathedral. I had little time left in the city and I knew that I must try and visit the dome and see the view from the top before I did. I had seen and heard about others doing it so I made the arrangements.

Since leaving Finland I had buried the photos away in my archives and sat on them a little too long. It is finally time to share those with you and hopefully you will see what is so great about the landmark and the beautiful city that surrounds it.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki doesn’t have the most impressive skyline when you compare it to other capital cities but it still has its fair share of remarkable buildings and some great examples of impressive architecture.. Below you can see St John’s Church, Mikael Agricola Church named after the godfather of Finnish Language, and my personal favourite the tower of the Helsinki Fire Station.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Once we had climbed more than a handful of narrow stairways we came into a opening, In the center of the space were the bells and surrounding them were windows facing in every direction. I was able to walk freely around the room and open any of the windows, allowing me obscured views over the city.

Luckily, the day was perfect. An almost clear sky allowed for excellent views and, even more importantly, some of the best photographs I have been able to take of the city I had called home for the last five years.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The National Library of Finland has also become one of my much loved buildings in the city. From the outside the building carries little dominance compared to the other buildings surrounding the Cathedral but inside the details and architecture are different to anywhere else in the city.

See inside the National Library of Finland, though I won’t spoil the impressive main hall, that has to be seen for yourself.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Surrounding the Helsinki Cathedral are many official buildings including the beautiful House of the Estate (pictured below) and opposite it the Bank of Finland, as well as government buildings and part of the campus for Helsinki University.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The tall granite tower of Kallio Church could be seen to the North, it is much closer than it seems and can be reached easily by tram, metro or even walking from the Cathedral. In comparison the two are very different in design, many of Helsinki’s places of worship are, including the relatively new Chapel of Silence in Kamppi and the well-visited  Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church) in Töölö.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Senate Square

If Helsinki had a tourist center Senate Square would be it. The historical buildings date back to the early days of the city and the statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II located in the middle of the square is a reminder of the time Finland spent as an autonomous part of Russia.

Helsinki Cathedral is the jewel of Senate Square and dominates over the surrounding buildings. All built around the same period with many of them being designed by the German architect C.L Engel, the creator never lived to see his masterpiece finished. After his death a number of modifications were made to the design of the Cathedral.

In the harbour you can see the small ferry coming in from the island of Suomenlinna, a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike during the summer months. Another building worth mentioning is the Sederholm House, now the home of the Helsinki City Museum, and the oldest building in central Helsinki dating back to 1757.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

Another reminder of Russia’s influence in Helsinki is the nearby Uspenski Cathedral. Constructed a few years after the completion of Helsinki Cathedral and designed by a Russian architect by the name of Aleksey Gornostayev. Unfortunately, Gornostayev died before construction began.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Inside the Helsinki Cathedral

Hidden inside the structure of the Helsinki Cathedral is the original wooden frame. As we climbed higher and higher the smell of wood grew stronger. Wood is the backbone of Finland. Not only was it used heavily in the early days of construction but it is still relied on today. If you ever manage to venture outside of the cities you will soon understand why, trees grow in such abundance across the entire country.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The old wooden crane that was used to build the structure and lift the heavy bronze bells into place still remains in the roof. It is almost impossible for me to understand how the Cathedral would have been constructed during the 1800’s and the effort needed to lift the bell into the roof is an achievement in itself.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

On the way up we stopped to admire the clock mechanism, a central unit with two metal rods reaching out to the clock faces on each side of the dome. After leaving the Cathedral I went around the outside and looked up to the clock that I had squeezed behind to photograph only a few moments ago.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The Final View

The final view was from inside the dome itself. It may have not been the most impressive but it was still from the highest point that could be reached inside the Cathedral. A small dirt covered window facing East allowed for a view over the roof tops and into the suburbs. At the time I didn’t realise but this was my last view across the city and what an excellent one it was.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Further Reading:

If you love views then I am sure you would be interested in seeing views from the other places I have visited in the Helsinki.

Helsinki Cathedral from the Fire Station

The View from Kallio Church in summer and winter

Photos of Helsinki Cathedral

Coming soon: Climbing Kallio Church

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Sculpture in the City

Black Shed Expanded

Black Shed Expanded by Nathaniel Rackowe stands below the building more commonly known as the Gherkin. The shed, painted in black bitumen, looks as if it is being blown apart by the yellow light that comes from within.

Rackowe said about his work, ‘I thought it interesting to take the humble shed and elevate it so it can rise up and challenge architecture, deconstructing it to the point where you are forced to re-read it.’

Black Shed Expanded is part of a larger public exhibition know as Sculpture in the City comprising of 18 other pieces dotted around the financial district of London.

Further Reading:

Sculpture in the City: About the artworks

Public art in the Helsinki Metro

Sculptures of Helsinki

Jussi TwoSeven the street artist that displays his work in public places

Helsinki Feeling

Over the last year I have been exploring Helsinki from a different perspective, I never used to care about unique staircases, interesting doorways, or if a building had a hidden courtyard. But it is in these things, among others, that I have become fond of.

I have met others with similar interests, surprisingly there are a few of us, and we have begun to explore the city and help each other develop. It has opened my eyes to a new side of photography and I now approach everyday objects with a different eye.
Helsinki Feeling
A friend of mine also explores Helsinki looking for these details, with one of his projects focusing on the many different building facades that Helsinki has. He was recently featured by Guardian Cities and they wrote an article about his project, Helsinki Facades.
I hope I am able to continue and that there will be a few more great staircases, among others, gracing these pages.
I would like to hear what you all think about this type of photography, is it something you are interested in or do you photograph these types of details?