Monday, 6 January 2014

Heritage of friars

Here, 2014 has started as grey as ever but back to the turn of the year for a while. We spent the eve at our friends’ in Rauma, the ones with whom we travelled to both Catalonia and Rioja in 2012. In fact, we were so well entertained we stayed for two nights.

Our ties with Rauma are rather tight. I lived there all through the 1980s and both my children were born there. Less than a decade ago, it was still my husband’s hometown and his son lives there even today. When leaving for home I suddenly felt an urge to visit the church, mainly because of some artworks I wanted to see.

When I was expecting my first-born I walked this path every day on my way to work.

The location of the church is quite picturesque: by a small stream, the so-called Rauma river, north of the historical wooden Old Rauma, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is not certain which was first, the Franciscan convent or the settlement that later became the town. Rauma was established in 1442, which makes it one of the oldest towns in our country. The present parish church, the Church of the Holy Cross, dates back to at about 1500 when the Franciscans built it to replace their wooden shrine. Protestant reformation drove the friars away in the late 1530s and for a century the buildings had no religious use but served the Crown.

In 1640, the stone church of the Franciscans was finally put into service as a Lutheran church when a fire – one of the many that have wiped out the wooden town over the centuries – destroyed the then parish church on the southern side of the old town. The bell tower was added only some 200 years ago built using stones recovered from the burnt church.

I find the interior of the Rauma church one of the most beautiful in our country thanks to the decorations and artworks reminding about its Catholic past. Even my poor photos reveal hints of its splendour.

The colourful murals on the walls and vaults of the choir date from the early 16th century, from the time of our last Catholic bishop. I didn’t even try to photograph them in the twilight. The pulpit is a rare wood-carved Renaissance piece made in northern Germany in 1625. The huge 24-arm brass chandelier is a donation from 1648.

The wood-carved triptych altarpiece is another donation made in the early 17th century. It is most likely a Prussian piece from the 1440s. It now serves as the altarpiece for a side altar that was recently arranged in the northern nave of the church.

The church also boasts a few votive paintings or epitaphs, such as the large baroque one of the Sonck family from 1653 pictured above. The two coats of arms decorating the balusters of the northern gallery are so-called funeral hatchments.

The apostles Peter and John.
The paintings on the railing of the galleries represent the apostles and the texts tell about their martyrdom. They were painted by Jonas Bergman from Turku in the 1760s.

Actually, the reason for my visit was the lonely old lady sitting on the bench with a hymnal in her hand. Did you notice her in a couple of the above photos? She is a piece by the local ceramic sculptor Kerttu Horila I posted about some time ago (here). Adorable, isn’t she?

There was also a nativity scene by her at the entrance to the church, and another rag doll style for the little ones in the space that served as a side entrance once. It is delightful that cribs have entered also our churches, although often not further than the vestibule.

It is Epiphany, the end of the festive season. By the time I post this the cribs have been removed and stored for another 11 months. St Francis of Assisi will continue his guard facing the Church of the Holy Cross. ‘Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.’ I am sure that is what he is thinking about when stroking the bird in his hand, even though the prayer commonly attributed to him was first published as late as in 1912.

The sculpture of St Francis of Assisi by Jussi Vikainen is from the 1970s.


  1. Kaunis ja tunnelmallinen kirkko. Tuo Kerttu Horilan nainen on aivan mahtava! Luulin sitä kyllä ensimmäisissä kuvissa eläväksi ihmiseksi, mutta hänen patsaansahan näyttävät aina eläviltä. Ihania!

    1. Tällä kertaa tuo vanharouva oli ainoa Horilan naisvieras kirkossa. Olen kuvista nähnyt, että siellä on joskus ollut myös kännykkää räpläävä teinityttö ja musta äiti pieni lapsi sylissään. Ainakin jälkimmäinen oli viime kesän näyttelyssä esillä.