Petäjävesi Old Church

Petäjävesi Old Church

Petäjävesi Old Church, in central Finland, was built of logs between 1763 and 1765. This Lutheran country church is a typical example of an architectural tradition that is unique to eastern Scandinavia. It combines the Renaissance conception of a centrally planned church with older forms deriving from Gothic groin vaults.

Vieille église de Petäjävesi

La vieille église de Petäjävesi, en Finlande centrale, construite en rondins de conifères en 1763-1765, est une église luthérienne rurale représentative d'une tradition architecturale propre à l'est de la Scandinavie. L'église associe la conception Renaissance d'une église de plan centré et les formes plus anciennes dérivées des plafonds aux voûtes d'arêtes de la période gothique.

كنيسة بيتاجافيزي القديمة

إنّ كنيسة بيتاجافيزي القديمة الواقعة في وسط فنلندا والمبنيّة بجذوع أشجار صنوبر مقشورة بين 1763 و 1765 هي كنيسة لوثرية ريفية تمثل تقليداً هندسياً خاصاً بشرق سكندينافيا. وتجمع هذه الكنيسة ما بين مفهوم كنيسة النهضة ذات تصميم مركّز وأشكال قديمة مشتقّة من سقائف لقبب نتوءات صخرية تعود للحقبة القوطية.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Старая церковь в деревне Петяявеси

Старая церковь в Петяявеси, в центральной Финляндии, построена из бревен в 1763-1765 гг. Эта провинциальная лютеранская церковь является типичным примером архитектурных традиций, которые уникальны для Восточной Скандинавии. Симметричная планировка церкви Ренессанса соединяется здесь с более старыми формами, берущими начало от готических крестовых сводов.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Iglesia vieja de Petäjävesi

Situada en el centro de Finlandia, la iglesia vieja de Petäjävesi fue construida con troncos de coníferas entre 1763 y 1765. Es una iglesia luterana rural representativa de la tradición arquitectónica típica del este de Escandinavia. Su arquitectura combina el plano centrado de concepción renacentista con formas más antiguas, derivadas de los techos con bóvedas de arista del periodo gótico.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Oude kerk van Petäjävesi

De oude kerk van Petäjävesi staat in het midden van Finland en werd gebouwd van boomstammen tussen 1763 en 1765. De Lutherse landkerk is een typisch voorbeeld van een architectonische traditie die uniek is voor Oost-Scandinavië. Het combineert de visie van de Renaissance van een centraal ontworpen kerk met oudere vormen die voortvloeien uit gotische liesgewelven. De kerk – toonbeeld van de architectonische schoonheid van een noordelijke landelijke protestantse kerk – ligt op een schiereiland waar de meren Jamsa en Petäjävesi elkaar raken. Deze locatie is speciaal uitgekozen zodat de gemeente de kerk per boot of over het ijs kan bereiken.


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Petäjävesi Old Church © Nick Thompson
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Built for a small Lutheran parish in central Finland, Petäjävesi Old Church is located on a peninsula at Lake Solikkojärvi and is surrounded by an agricultural landscape with lakes and forests, typical of the region.

Construction of this wooden church was led by a local master builder, Jaakko Leppänen. The bell tower was added to the western part of the church in 1821 by the master’s grandson, Erkki Leppänen.

Petäjävesi Old Church is representative of the architectural tradition of wooden churches in northern Europe. The Old Church is a unique example of traditional log construction techniques applied by the local peasant population in northern coniferous forest areas. European architectural trends, which have influenced the external form and layout of the church, have been masterfully applied to traditional log construction.

The adaption of forms and techniques of varied provenance makes this church a multi-layered landmark and an outstanding example of Nordic church architecture. The church is built entirely of pine wood, worked in a constructive and economical manner.

The layout and interior of the church, with intricate perspectives, vaulting and a central cupola, combines the influences of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic styles with the Finnish vernacular tradition of log construction. The steepness of the pitched roof recalls the Gothic tradition. The interior’s hand-carved log surfaces with their silky patina and the silvery sheen on the seasoned walls lend the hall its unique atmosphere, which is further enhanced by the slightly irregular placement of the floor beams and pews. The distinctive features of the interior are the elaborately carved pulpit, pews, chandeliers, and galleries with balustrades, which are entirely the work of local craftsmen and artists.

In 1879, a new church was built on the other side of the strait and the Old Church went out of use. Repairs, restoration and conservation works started in the 1920s when the historical and architectural value of the Old Church was recognized. Today, the churchyard is still in use, while the church is used only in the summer.

Criterion (iv): Petäjävesi Old Church is an outstanding example of the architectural tradition of wooden churches in northern Europe.


Petäjävesi Old Church includes all key elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value, such as the graveyard surrounded by a fence and the nearby landscape setting, fields and lakeside. The integrity of the wider agricultural landscape was affected by the construction of a highway to the south of the church in the 1960s.

The buffer zone of Petäjävesi Old Church includes the entire agricultural landscape surrounding the church as well as the lakeside. Climate change might threaten the integrity of the property.


In terms of form, construction and materials, Petäjävesi Old Church truthfully expresses the essence and spirit of the wooden church building traditions of northern Europe. The church is well preserved due to the fact that it was abandoned in the late 19th century, as the new parish church was built, and did not suffer from major alterations such as the installation of heating systems. The church is therefore used only during the summer season. Traditional techniques and materials have been used in previous and recent conservation works, and interventions have been kept to a minimum in order to preserve the tangible values and the spirit of the church. The graveyard surrounding the church, which dates back to the 18th century, is still in use.

Protection and management requirements

The property and its buffer zone are legally protected under national legislation and are managed by a management board headed by the Petäjävesi Old Church Trust. The church is owned by the local parish. Long and short term operations are guided by a Management Plan.

Conservation works are carried out using traditional materials and craftsmanship. A specific forest has been designated to guarantee the supply of high-quality wood. The conservation philosophy is to do minimum intervention and only when necessary.

Climate change causing increasingly warm and humid autumns and winters, might threaten the property’s wooden constructions on a long term basis. As part of the overall management system, special attention is paid to documentation and follow-up of the alterations caused by weather conditions.

Fire safety measures have been taken by installing a fire alarm, a pump station, as well as an automatic extinguishing system.

Wear to the wooden floors, caused by increased numbers of visitors, has been addressed by the use of slippers during visits.

Long Description

The Petäjävesi Evangelical Lutheran Old Church is a building of considerable global importance as an example of northern timber church architecture. The church is uniquely representative of log construction in the northern coniferous area and of the skills of the peasant population. European architectural trends have influenced the external form and the ground plan of the church, but they have been applied masterfully to traditional log construction. The church combines the layout of a Renaissance central church conception and older forms derived from Gothic groined ceilings. It reflects in an impressive way the architectural beauty of a northern rural Protestant church.

The church is situated on a peninsula where Lakes Jamsa and Petäjävesi meet. The location was determined by the fact that the congregation would be able to reach it by boat or over the ice in the winter. At the present time there is no settlement in the immediate vicinity of the church, since the town of Petäjävesi has developed about 1 km away.

Petäjävesi Old Church was designed and built in 1763-64 by a peasant master-builder, and in 1821 his grandson added the bell tower at the west end. Since a new church was built on the other side of the strait in 1879, the Old Church went out of use and was not maintained for many years, only the bell tower and cemetery being used for their original purpose. Repairs began in the 1920s when an Austrian art historian drew attention to its historical and architectural value.

The ground plan of the church is cruciform, the arms being virtually the same size. This form of church developed first in towns in the later 17th century, and only later spread into the countryside. The model was probably the stone church built in Stockholm in 1656 in a style derived from Italian architecture. The bell tower at the west end of the church is connected to it by a narrow corridor; the vestry is similarly linked with the eastern arm. The main structure is of horizontal log (Blockbau) construction, in the tradition to be found further to the east. The walls were not originally clad with planks, as at the present time. The four arms are covered by high, slightly angular vaults made from reddish pine planks, and there is an octagonal dome at the crossing. The circular design at the top of the dome derives from the classical opaion as interpreted in Renaissance architecture. The masking slats, base and tie-beams of the vaults are decorated in red ochre. The interior largely preserves its original form, as developed during the century (1764-1879) when it was in liturgical use. The distinctive features are the pulpit, pews, balustraded galleries and chandeliers, the elaborate carving of which is entirely the work of local craftsmen and artists.

The exterior is characterized by the steeply pitched roof, reminiscent of Gothic architecture. One of the doorways and the window of the choir have preserved their original triple arches. The lowest tier of the bell tower is in Blockbau construction, the walls and lantern being timber-framed with clapboard cladding. The bell trestle is supported on a sturdy log frame. Unlike the rest of the church, the bell tower is painted a different colour. The church is situated within a graveyard surrounded by a stone wall.

The period of neglect between 1879 and the 1920s was a blessing in disguise. When restoration began the historical importance of the building had been recognized and so interventions for restoration and conservation were kept to a minimum and used traditional techniques and materials. As a result the level of authenticity is exceptionally high.

Historical Description

Petajvesi Old Church was designed and built in 1763-64 by the peasant master-builder, Jaakko Klemetinpoika Lepptien. In 1821 his grandson, Erkki Lepparren, added the bell-tower at the west end.

Since a new church was built on the other side of the strait in 1879, less than 1 km distant, the Old Church has been out of use. It was not maintained for a considerable period, only the bell-tower and cemetery being used for their original purpose. Repair work began in the 1920s when the Austrian art historian, Josef Strzygowski, drew attention to its historical and architectural value. At the present time the church is mainly a tourist attraction, though services are held there during the summer

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation