Church of St. Lawrence

The Church of St. Lawrence is the youngest medieval stone church in Häme (Tavastia) region. It was probably consecrated on September 19, 1520. Its builder is considered to be Åke Tott, the Lord of Häme Castle at that time. Therefore three coats of arms of the Tott family are still to be seen in the church.

The main entrance is facing west where the sun sets and all ends. The altar is facing east, the direction of resurrection and arrival of Christ. Originally the church was rectangular with vaulted brick ceiling. The vestry was located to the left side of the altar facing the north. On both the southern and western sides there was probably a porch.

The pulpit originates from the early 1660’s. The belfry was constructed by the famous Finnish church builder Martti Tolppo. It was completed in 1785 to replace the earlier, all wooden belfry from 1662. The church bells date from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The church was radically altered in in 1840’s, when the half-octagon shaped new sacristy was build and the church became cruciform, designed by the two empire style architects Engel and Lohrmann. The altarpiece “Jesus on the cross” was painted by B.A. Godenhjelm in 1851.

In 1875 the parish started a fundraising in order to buy the first organ. Baron H.G. Boije donated 940 marks out of the total 1300 marks raised. The first organ came from Kangasala organ factory in 1879. The first organ was, however quite soon replaced with the second, also made by Kangasala organ factory in 7.7.1927.

In 1933 the church was restored to its former style by the design of Professor Carolus Lindberg, but only a year later a fire destroyed the organ and the interior of the church to such an extent that new restoration was necessary. During midsummer of 1935 bishop Aleksi Lehtonen inaugurated the church and the third organ. The church interiors, however were not painted until 1962.

Since 1982 all funeral ceremonies have been carried out at the main altar. Prior to this, there was a special funeral altar, built in 1956 and located in the north wing. The choir was then also altered by making it wider and a wheelchair ramp was added. Psalm boards were removed from lectern and placed on the wall, underneath them. The old, wooden statue of Christ was placed on the southern wall of the choir so that anyone who comes to the altar will face it. The sacristy was renovated as well and storage space and restrooms were added downstairs.

At the beginning of 1990’s a basic renovation of the interior was carried out. Returning to the early church ideas, the altar was moved away from the wall so that the priest could stand behind it when officiating at a communion service. The altar railing was left open in the middle to symbolize the unobstructed, free access to unconditional grace of Christ.

The fourth organ of the church was installed in 1993. It was built in Martti Porthan's local organ workshop. It has 40 registers and represents the North-German baroque style. It is a rarity and the only organ in Scandinavia that can be played 'mitteltőnig' (middle-tuned). The organ is decorated with spectacular woodcarvings and modeled after the organ of Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Stade, North Germany.

Who was St Lawrence?
Near the church, there is the spring of St Lawrence that has got its name from St Lawrence, the patron saint of Janakkala, to whom this church is also dedicated. According to a legend archdeacon Lawrence was burned to death on gridiron in Rome during the persecutions of the Christians, because he had, on the bishop´s command, sold the church treasures and given the money to the poor.

The legend of St. Lawrence, or Lauri in Finnish, spread with Christianity so that also in Finland many churches were dedicated to him. People turned to Lauri for help when suffering from burns, fever, lumbago or when tormented by the purgatory as well as in case of fire. Lauri was also the saint of the poor, the librarians, firemen, cooks, bakers, schoolchildren and innkeepers.