Oulu Cathedral, Finland

Oulu Cathedral, Finland

Oulu – The fourth northernmost city in the world with over 100,000 inhabitants, known as the “capital of Northern Finland” and, surprisingly, home to the Air Guitar World Championships!

Oulu sits on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia and is just 60 miles from the Arctic Circle. It was a rather cold and snowy December day when I visited the Finnish city of Oulu. There was one place I just had to visit during our few hours in the city… Oulu Cathedral (“Oulun tuomiokirkko” in Finnish).

Oulu Cathedral in the snow.
Oulu Cathedral
Oulu Cathedral tower.
The entrance to Oulu Cathedral.

From the 1610s, a wooden church stood on the site of the front door of the current cathedral, though it was oriented from east to west. By 1769 the church was too small and dilapidated, so it was torn down and a stone church was built in its place in 1777.

Inside Oulu Cathedral.
Inside Oulu Cathedral.
Inside Oulu Cathedral.
The dome of Oulu Cathedral.

Stained-glass windows in Oulu Cathedral.

Stained-glass windows in Oulu Cathedral.

Oulu’s stone church was destroyed in 1822 after a fire broke out and destroyed most of the city. Whilst the wooden structures burnt down, the stone walls remained and formed the foundation of the new church (it wouldn’t become a cathedral until 1900). Like Helsinki Cathedral, the new Oulu Cathedral was designed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel. A new central dome, new roof structures and a new steeple were introduced, with the rebuilding of the cathedral finishing in 1832 and the steeple in 1845.

Oulu Cathedral's 62-stop Romantic main organ.
Oulu Cathedral’s 62-stop Romantic main organ.

Oulu Cathedral's 62-stop Romantic main organ.

Oulu Cathedral's 18-stop choir organ.
Oulu Cathedral’s 18-stop choir organ.

We walked through the doors of Oulu Cathedral to be greeted by the main organ belting out music. The cathedral has two organs – the 62-stop Romantic main organ (built by Kangasala organ factory in 1938) and the 18-stop choir organ (built by Urkurakentamo Veikko Virtanen in 1938). The sound emanating from the main organ was magnificent.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

The cathedral’s stained-glass windows are vibrant and colourful, and yet fit in very well with the neoclassical architecture.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

A stained-glass window at Oulu Cathedral.

We had the cathedral to ourselves, for the most part, and it was a welcome break from Oulu’s December snow. The cathedral is free to visit, but it is best to check the cathedral website for opening times.

The Altar at Oulu Cathedral.
The Altar at Oulu Cathedral.

The Altar at Oulu Cathedral.

The Pulpit at Oulu Cathedral.
The Pulpit at Oulu Cathedral.

The city of Oulu is easily accessible by public transport. Oulu is home to Finland’s second-largest airport, and Finland has a good network of trains and buses. We caught the train to Oulu from Kannus (on the Helsinki to Rovaniemi train route) for a day trip.

We only had a few hours in Oulu, but I would love to visit again (maybe in the summer when there’s more daylight!).

34 comments

  1. Ginnie Hart says:

    I Googled to see that this is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral, Nikki, which explains why it isn’t over the top like you see in so many Roman Catholic cathedrals. I love how it is beautifully stated and especially that you were there when the organ was being played. How fortuitous!

  2. Anca says:

    Air Guitar World Championships?! That sounds interesting, had no idea there is such a thing.

    I like the cathedral very much, it looks different and airy.

  3. Astrid says:

    Such a wonderful, well decorated cathedral, Nikki. Not over the top and overwhelming, but very decorative and basic. I noticed the ship hanging from the ceiling. Wonderful stained glass windows and I would nit have mind to hear the organ. Thank you for taking us along on this trip.

  4. Ann says:

    Thank you for sharing your visit to Oulu Cathedral with us. It’s absolutely stunning! The sound of the organ is impressive, and the stained glass – particularly the first one – is magnificent! xxx

  5. Sharon says:

    I actually had a pen pal from Oulu called Tina when I was a child, pen pals were all the rage growing up and I loved to receive an air mail envelope in the post.

  6. Karalee says:

    The Oulu Cathedral is beautiful! I love the yellow exterior, and the stained glass windows are stunning. Also, I enjoyed the short clip with the main organ playing!

  7. Beverley says:

    Such a beautiful cathedral. There is a simplicity about the design that seems almost timeless. The stained glass windows and the main organ are amazing. Thank you for sharing your short visit to Oulu.

  8. jeanie says:

    This is really beautiful, Nikki. So airy and the glass windows really stand out with the surrounding white. That’s an amazing looking organ.

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