My apologies for the lack of blogging over the past few days. That’s partly due to being on the road, partly due to lack of wifi access (I get free roaming in Finland on my phone, but that doesn’t include tethering), and partly due to my being so boggled by the goings on back home that I have no idea what to say. Here, in lieu of anything more intelligent, is a little bit of Finnish history.
Well, sort of history anyway. The basic facts are true, but I have embellished them somewhat. Also I have translated the mythic context from Finnish to Scandinavian. That’s partly because you folks will be far more familiar with Scandinavian folklore, and partly because the Finns don’t have an equivalent of frost giants. Irma tells me that, like the forest, snow is something that Finns are not afraid of. They see both things as something that keeps them safe from invaders rather than a threat.
Once upon a time the people of Iisalmi decided that they would like to have a church of their own. They had been Christian for many generations, but there had never been a church in their town, so they decided to build one. They built the church out of wood, but this proved to be a mistake because Thor was angry with them for deserting him. He threw a bolt of lightning at the church and it burned to the ground.
The people of Iisalmi determined not to be cowed by pagan gods. Swiftly they erected a new church. But they did so in such a hurry that the first time a frost giant stomped past that winter it fell down.
Still the people of Iisalmi refused to be beaten. They decided to build a church out of stone that no one could burn or knock down. Stone churches are expensive, so they collected a great of money and silver to pay for it. They put all of this wealth in a great wooden chest with seven locks. But Loki saw all of this treasure are determined to have it for himself. He sent thieves to steal it, giving them magic with which to open the seven locks and get away unseen.
With their money stolen, the people of Iisalmi had no choice but to build in wood once more. They were, of course, afraid that their church would be demolished again, so they got together to decide how to proceed. After much discussion the people decided to build a church so beautiful that no one, not even pagan gods, would dare to destroy it. That is what they did, and the church is still standing today.
I should note that the church has been renovated several times since it was built, but they have tried to stick to an 18th Century look for it.
I note also that the altarpiece was painted by a woman, Alexandra Såltin. Apparently her work was well known and she did paintings for several other churches in the area.