Petäjävesi Old Church - History and Facts | History Hit

Petäjävesi Old Church

A wooden marvel in central Finland -  Petäjävesi Old Church is a UNESCO World Heritage site worth exploring.

Teet Ottin

04 Jan 2023
Image Credit: Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

About Petäjävesi Old Church

This quirky 18th century wooden church stood abandoned and forgotten for a long time, but during the 20th century it found new life and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

History of the Petäjävesi Old Church

Located in central Finland, the Protestant church was erected between 1763 and 1765. Its architectural style, which blends elements from Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic design is typical for that part of Northern Europe. Construction on this beautiful masterpiece of woodwork was led by Jaakko Leppänen, a local master builder. The bell tower was added later in 1821, by his grandson Erkki Leppänen. The entire structure was created using pinewood, which was found in abundance in the surrounding Finnish forests.

By 1879 the church went out of use and began to slowly deteriorate. The structure could have been lost to the elements if Polish-Austrian art historian Josef Strzygowski hadn’t noticed its beauty and historical value. Restoration works began in the 1920s, bringing life back to the wooden marvel.

Petäjävesi Old Church today

The UNESCO World Heritage site can be found at Lake Solikkojärvi and is surrounded by wild countryside, ranging from dense forests and lakes to agricultural fields. The graveyard surrounding the wooden church is still in use by the local community, with the building itself being open during the summer months.

For visitors who want to stay for the night, there is an old 18th century farm next to the wooden church. Part of the World Heritage site, it offers rooms in the old cowshed and in the idyllic granary of the main building.

Getting to Petäjävesi Old Church

There are two main ways to get to the old wooden church – either by car or by train. If going from Helsinki, one can take the train up to Jyväskylä (sometimes a change in Tampere is required) and then change to Petäjävesi. The journey can take from 4-6 hours one way.