Salla Church

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Photo: Matti Poutjarvi / MFA
  • PlaceSallla
  • Completion 1950
  • Decade1950s
  • PeriodThe post-war reconstruction era
  • Year of selection1993


The inhabitants of Salla faced both devastation and plight on returning to their homes following the Lapland War of 1944-1945. The German army had burned the villages when retreating, and in the peace terms almost half of the municipality of Salla was ceded to the Soviet Union. The village centre and all the buildings – including a church from the 1830s designed by C. L. Engel – which had been left on the other side of the border were destroyed during the war.

The funding for a new church was organized through parish collections in Denmark. In 1947 an architecture competition was held, in which the parish expressed their wish for a building in old Finnish church style. The competition was won by architecture students Eero Eerikäinen and Osmo Sipari with a proposal in which the form of late-mediaeval, steep-roofed Finnish stone churches is combined with modernist ideals and materials.

The exterior of the church is almost completely black and white, and the gables are minimalist triangular shapes. Following both mediaeval and Functionalist conventions, the masonry facades have been rendered white. Built into the masonry of the rear gable façade is a large cross pattern and the towering roof planes are clad in tarred shingles. A further reference to the old church tradition is the separate sharp-peaked, shingle-clad bell tower.

A bold approach was taken in terms of the building construction; in cross-section the nave is a tall parabola-shaped concrete vault, the curved structural frame of which is visible. The nave is generous in its dimensions and solid – in a Lutheran way, ascetically beautiful. Quartz crystals glisten in the rough plastered surfaces, and crosses and other symbols are cut into the walls. Several different types of wood have been used in the church interior. The sides of the pulpit are adorned with decorations in the form of rising wheatears. The architects also designed many of the other artistic details and decorative motifs in the church. Paavo Tynell designed the festive-looking lighting fixtures, and various artists created artworks depicting the lives of the people of the north.

It has been said of Salla Church that it is not only Lapland’s most significant architectural-historical monument in church architecture during the post-war transition period, but also that of all of Finland (Museovirasto, 2009).


Harri Hautajärvi

Eerikäinen, Eero & Sipari, Osmo (1950). ”Sallan kirkko”. Arkkitehti 3/1950.
Heinänen, Hannu (1993). Sallan historia. Salla: Sallan kunta, Sallan seurakunta.
Knapas, Marja Terttu & Tirilä, Soile (2006). Suomalaista kirkkoarkkitehtuuria 1917–1970. Helsinki: Museovirasto.
Museovirasto (2009). ”Sallan kirkko”, Valtakunnallisesti merkittävät rakennetut kulttuuriympäristöt RKY: (haettu/accessed 16.1.2017).
”Sallan kirkkokilpailu” (1948). Arkkitehti 3–5/1948.


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