Legends of Elimäki Church

Elimäki church is the oldest wooden church in Finland. Its construction began in 1638 and continued in several stages. The bell tower and the stone wall surrounding the churchyard were built at the turn of the 1700s and 1800s.

The history of Elimäki church reaches back almost 400 years. It is said that when the building works of the church began, for some mysterious reason nothing was completed. Time and again, the foundations collapsed or some other strange thing happened. The builders were becoming desperate, so they decided to harness a powerful ox to draw a load of logs, instead of horses. They would erect the church on the spot where the black ox with its load stops. The ox stopped on the shore of the Elimäki lake, and that is where the church then went up. The construction of Elimäki church began in 1638 on the bottom of the partially drained lake. The church was later extended, and the lake was drained further.

The black ox also appears in a story set in the time after the Greater Wrath. The big church bell was hidden from the occupying Russians in a nearby pond. Later, when it was being retrieved, an old woman yelled: ”The old ox of Elimäki is coming!” This startled the men, they let go of the ropes, and the bell plunged back into the pond. As far as anyone knows, it is still there today.

On one occasion, when the church was being repaired, the aggressive and arrogant master of Peippola manor drove his horse into the church. As punishment for his impudent deed, he was sentenced to sit in the ’black bench’ of the church. But being rich, he did not need to take his punishment. Instead of himself, he placed his hat and walking stick on the bench. It was customary to sit offenders on the black bench of shame in the church.

Source: River of Stories, Pekka Vartiainen, Juha Iso-Aho & Anu Nuutinen (Toim. / Eds.) – Rural Explorer Project

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