Strategically commanded by the king of Sweden, a wooden church was built by the local people of Sodankylä in 1689. Sodankylä was a natural juncture and a melting pot for potential churchgoers in the area as two rivers joined waters here. 150 km north, another church was built in Inari. 150 km south, a church was built in Kemijärvi.
The very same church built in Sodankylä in 1689 is still standing, because of tar. Tar is made almost in the same manner as they made charcoal out of wood. I noticed the scent immediately entering the building. Tar is like oil. It has a lively, briny, and fiery scent. When you paint it on wood it keeps water from penetrating the material. It also keep living things from taking root or room in the wood.
Every two year we put a new layer on the church roof, enchanting Ms.Riikka Karppinen guides us. She explains how the church is still standing. It was one of few buildings that survived WW II; the Germans used it for housing some of their men. It had already been worthy of saving for a hundred years. It was almost doomed when the new modern church of Sodankylä was built in 1859. People initially let the old church deteriorate. Luckily, attitudes changed and it was decided to maintain the old church.
Originally there were 200 seats in the church. Today 100 seats are available. Have people have become larger in size? Have the human race become taller and heavier the last 300 years or so? Or, are we just getting unhealthy larger butts? Who knows? It could also be that the churchgoers were cramming the benches back in the 17th century. In the winter, it was how you stayed warm. There was and is no heating system in the church.
Underneath the boards are three mummies. A three week old baby lies in front of the altarpiece made in 1739 by Mr. Petter Bergström. With a flashlight you can see it. Two other mummies are also resting underneath the floor. The church is very much untouched. Most of it is still original. This makes the church attractive for visitors from all over the world. There are many old churches, but most of them have been altered in one way or another, says Riikka. The mummies are granted to rest in peace.
Today, there are no regular services. In the summer, there are weddings every Saturday. The church never had an organ. As in the old days, wedding parties must bring their own celestial music and singing to the church.
That’s a good way to carry on in many ways, amen!