One of Helsinki’s most notable landmarks, the Uspenski Cathedral should be on everyone’s list of things to see in Finland’s capital. 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.
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 meters away, then enjoy a close-up view walking up the hill. Turning around, one can get a great view of the city below.
The cathedral is a functioning religious center and the center 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.
But anyone, no matter their beliefs, can enjoy the splendor that is this magnificent structure in Helsinki. The deep red walls form a superb base for the green and gold domes.
Built in the Russian-Byzantine style, it was modeled after a 16th-century church near Moscow. The cathedral is covered in red brick and provides an outstanding look 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 bell tower 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.