Aalto took part in a competition for a large church and parish centre announced by Seinäjoki parish in 1951, sending in an entry marked “Lakeuksien risti” (“Cross of the plains”).
Instead of placing the parish rooms under the church or in a smaller, separate building, as the other entrants had done, Aalto seized upon the big religious events commonly organized in Osthrobotnia in summer. He laid out a large piazza, loping down towards the church and girded by the parish facilities, in front of the church´s main facade. He laid out a large piazza, loping down towards the church and girded by the parish facilities, in front of the church´s main facade. This space-consuming solution obliged Aalto to exceed the prescribed construction limit by some twenty metres, which prevented the jury from awarding him a prize. The jury awarded Aalto´s entry a purchase and recommended it as the basis for implementation.
Aalto was commissioned to develop the plain further. The church was built between 1958 and 1960 and the large parish centre in front between 1964 and 1966. The church was basically build to the competition design, except that Aalto had hoped to use black granite as the facade material; for reasons of cost, however, he had to be content with brick rendered white, only the side chapel being faced with granite.
The main characteristics of the church complex are as follows: on the north side stands the campanile, 65 metres high, in the shape of a stylized cross. Monumentally vertical, visible from afar in the endless plains, it is the town´s symbol. The slightly wedge-shaped, symmetrical church interior is 47 metres long and provides seating for a congregation of 1400. The vestry lies behind the altar, and between it and the campanile is a tiny baptistery and wedding chapel with a stained-glass work by Aalto. Aalto also designed the church textiles and communion vessels.
The parish centre´s main divergence from the competition entry is the open staircase on an axis from the main facade of the church to the town hall square (built up later). This staircase separates the two wings of the building, which contain a large assembly hall, catering facilities for the congregation, a room for confirmation classes, a clubroom, offices, and several apartments for employees.
The 65 metre tall campanile of the Cross Of The Plains is open for visitors during summer season. Photo: Maija Holma, Alvar Aalto Foundation
The church hall of the Cross Of The Plains provides seating for a congregation of 1400. Photo: Maija Holma, Alvar Aalto Foundation
The slightly wedge-shaped, symmetrical church interior is 47 metres long and provides seating for a congregation of 1400. The vestry lies behind the altar, and between it and the campanile is a tiny baptistery and wedding chapel with a stained-glass work by Aalto. Aalto also designed the church textiles and communion vessels.
Destination on the map
1. The Cross Of The Plains and the Parish Centre
Information for visitors
Good to know
Arriving to Seinäjoki
Seinäjoki is located approximately 400 kilometres from Helsinki. From Helsinki you can reach Seinäjoki with a train or by Onnibus or by Matkahuolto bus. Travellers can reach the Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki easily, because trains arrive right in the heart of the city. You can also look up the routes and timetables for public transport in the Seinäjoki region from this link (in Finnish). The Cross of the plains is located on Koulukatu 24, approximately 1 kilometre from the Travel Centre in Seinäjoki. You can reach Seinäjoki taxi service by calling +358 100 84 999.
The Cross of the plains is open during summer season (June-August) everyday from 11 am to 6 pm and during events and with a separate agreement. During the summer season guides are on site daily and a café is also available for visitors. During the winter, the tower of the Cross of the plains is closed until the end of April, but during spring and summer season, it is also possible to book a visit to the tower too. Tower visits need to be booked in advance by calling +358 6 418 4260. Please note that the visit to the tower is 1 EUR per person. For other bookings and inquiries please contact the church registry office by calling +358 6 418 4901.
Please note that you can also purchase publications about The Cross Of The Plains from the Alvar Aalto web shop!