Kerimäen Iso Kirkko

The Finnish Lakeland

Kerimäki may be small (pop 5000), but its Lutheran church certainly isn't. Built in 1847, the building was designed to accommodate 5000 and is commonly described as the world's largest wooden church. At the time of its construction, the town's population was 12,000, and the reverend wanted a church that could seat at least half of all residents. The building's scale is immense and the grand, light-drenched interior features stained-glass lamps and unusual wood panels painted to resemble marble.

Nineteenth-century worshippers arrived by water, crossing the lakes in a kirkkovene (church longboat). During services they were kept warm by eight huge stoves; these days the church is only open during the summer months.

A cafe and handicrafts shop are on the ground floor of the bell-tower structure in front of the church (proceeds go towards the maintenance, an onerous burden for a small parish).

Regular buses run between Savonlinna and Kerimäki (€6.10, 30 to 40 minutes); Sunday services are greatly reduced. Don’t catch a train: Kerimäki station is miles away from the village.