Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki

Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki

Sat on a hillside on the Katajanokka Peninsula, Uspenski Cathedral (‘Uspenskin Katedraali’ in Finnish) overlooks the city and harbour of Helsinki. This red-bricked cathedral with its 13 onion domes is Helsinki’s Orthodox cathedral and it is dedicated to the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos (‘the falling asleep of the Virgin Mary’). It’s considered to be the largest Orthodox temple in Northern and Western Europe.

Uspenski Cathedral
Uspenski Cathedral

The cathedral very much echoes its origins. At the time of the cathedral’s construction, Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire. The growing Orthodox population needed a larger church building, and so the construction of the new cathedral was mainly funded through donations from individual benefactors and parishioners.

The altar and iconostasis at Uspenski Cathedral.
The altar and iconostasis at Uspenski Cathedral.

Uspenski Cathedral was designed by architect Alexey Maksimovich Gornostaev between 1859 and 1860. He initially led the construction work, but architect Ivan Varek took over upon Gornostajev’s death in 1862. The design and construction of the cathedral took nine years and Uspenski Cathedral was consecrated on 25th October 1868.

Inside Uspenski Cathedral.
Inside Uspenski Cathedral.

Uspenski Cathedral’s design, especially its interior, is in stark contrast to Helsinki Cathedral, the city’s Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral. Every inch of it is intricately decorated. There’s no shortage of gold in this cathedral.

Looking up inside Uspenski Cathedral.
Looking up inside Uspenski Cathedral!
The dome and ceiling at Uspenski Cathedral.
The dome and ceiling at Uspenski Cathedral.
Looking up in Uspenski Cathedral.
Don’t forget to look up!

The dome and ceiling at Uspenski Cathedral.

A private baptism was underway during my first visit to Uspenski Cathedral. I was surprised that visitors were still allowed at this time, though kept behind a barrier and instructed to be quiet and respectful and not take photos. I arrived in time for the doors to open on my second visit, as did a couple of coach loads of tourists! Still, it was a welcome break from the cold outside.

Admission is free, though donations are gratefully accepted.


  1. Kelly says:

    It certainly is opulent!! I love looking up into the dome. Can you imagine having to light tapers on that chandelier before there was electricity? Maybe it was lowered on a chain or cord in order to do that.

  2. Ginnie Hart says:

    As Kelly has already said, it really is an opulent interior, Nikki, and totally worth seeing if you’re there. And as we photographers like to say, “ always look up,” indeed! I’m glad you did.

  3. Astrid says:

    “Don’t forget to look”, that is an understatement. What an incredible Cathedral this is, inside and outside. Incredible pictures showing the richness of the Cathedral. Very impressive and a bonus with the baptism. I am always happy to give a donation.
    Happy Easter.

  4. Weird, I know, but I am just amazed at the engineering of those spaces.
    When studying art history in college, the flying buttresses of cathedrals enthralled me, and how such huge edifices can remain standing is a wonderment.

  5. Beverley says:

    You have visited some wonderful cathedrals in the past and this is particularly impressive with the domed ceiling. It looks like the stars shining in the sky. Beautiful!

    • Nikki says:

      I always make a point of finding out cathedrals and churches when I’m on my travels. You are so right, the stars in the dome do look like they are shining in the sky!

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