VILPPULA CHURCH

Vilppulan alueet kuuluivat 1800-luvulla Ruoveden ja Keuruun seurakuntiin. Pitkät kirkkomatkat tehtiin kirkkoveneillä ja talvella jäitä pitkin. Vuonna 1890 pidettiin Ala-Ajoksen talossa kokous, jossa päätettiin oman rukoushuoneen perustamisesta Vilppulaan. Asiaa ajamaan perustettiin toimikunta ja kerättiin kolehti. Rukoushuoneen toivottiin valmistuvan jo seuraavana vuonna.

Vilppula church ja kirkkosalmi. Vilppula-Seura ry.

The Vilppula region belonged to the parishes of Ruovesi and Keuruu in the 19th century. The long journeys to the church were made by long rowboats, “church boats” and in the winter crossing the ice over the lake. In 1890, a meeting was held at the house of Ala-Ajos, where it was decided that Vilppula should have its own chapel. A committee was established and collections were held. It was hoped that the chapel could be finished by the following year.

There were many views as to where the chapel should be built, but finally the matter was decided as three hectares of land by Äijänsalmi strait was donated for the building of the church and a cemetery. An official society was established to oversee the project. A local craftsman, Juho Nieminen, was appointed as the project’s foreman and the building reached roof height in 1892. The first mass in the new church was held with people standing on floor fillers. The building project was finally completed close to the end of the century. The church was consecrated by Herman Råbergh, bishop of Porvoo, in September 1900. Vilppula gained its status as an independent parish in 1904.

The church was designed by architect Georg Schrek. The church, with its bell tower, represents the late 19th century revival styles, and its interiors also exhibit influences of art nouveau.

The log-built church received an exterior cladding in 1912, and the interiors were finalised based on the drawings by architect Ilo Launis. The altar wall added a three-piece leaded glass window with a theme from the Book of Revelation. The altar piece is “Christ on Mountainpath” painted by Pekka Halonen, and endowment by Thyra Jurvelius, daughter of factory owner G.A. Serlachius.
The first organ, designed by composer Oskar Merikanto, was acquired from Kangasala Organ Factory in 1914, and the composer himself played the instrument at the inaugural concert. The current, 21-stop organ was installed in 1981. It was designed by church musician Asko Rautionaho and built by Urkurakentamo Tuomi organ makers.

CEMETERY

The cemetery was consecrated in 1894. Vilppula Cemetery has several artistically valuable tombs. In the Serlachius’ family grave, the tombstone of G.A. Serlachius has a relief portraying him and his wife, sculpted by Emil Wikström. He also sculpted the marble statue “Weeping Woman”, commissioned by Thyra Jurvelius to commemorate her husband. The tombstone of Dr. E.W. Lybeck, the chief physician of Elämänmäki sanatorium, was created by sculptor Eino Koivisto and is entitled “The Flame of Elämänmäki”.

Actress Heidi Blåfield’s grave is marked by sculptor Into Saxelin’s statuette “Praying Angel Child”.

KIRKKOSALMI BRIDGE

The Kirkkosalmi turn bridge was built in 1892. The bridge was usually turned open to allow boat traffic to pass to Vilppula Harbour downstream from the rapids. During the church service, the church warden would turn the bridge across the strait. After the completion of the new road bridge, the turn bridge was demolished in the late 1960s as it was no longer considered necessary.


1918

In 1918, Finland experienced a brutal civil war, which lasted for four months and resulted in the loss of nearly 40,000 lives. For seven weeks from the first days of the war, Vilppula was the centre of events. The northern side of Vilppulankoski was held by the White Guard and the southern side by the Red Guard. The Finnish Civil War ended on 16 May 1918 with the victory of the White Guard and the defeat of the Red Guard. The White Guard was led by the Finnish Senate and the Red Guard by the Finnish People's Delegation that opposed the Senate.

During the first Red offensive against Vilppula, on 2 February 1918, the church and the area around it remained intact. On the following day, the Whites pulled the turn bridge onto the northern side of the rapids, with the aim of stopping the Red Guard from advancing across the strait. The White Guard also dug fire trenches to support their defense positions around the church. During the second offensive, on 4 February 1918, troops consisting of Red Guard and Russian fighters attempted to advance through the cemetery to strike at the flanks of the White Guard. The Whites responded by firing at the attackers from the firing line and with the machine gun placed next to the church. By nightfall, the Reds withdrew back to Lyly.

During the third offensive of 7 February 1918, the White Guard machine gun was place in the bell tower. This had already been attempted before, unsuccessfully. On the same day, the Reds attacked the church. Owing to the heavy fire from the attackers, the machine gun had to be taken down from the bell tower.

For the third time, the Red offensive was fought back by the rifle and machine gun fire by the Whites, as well as the supporting artillery fire from the two guns located in the centre of Vilppula. The Red artillery also targetted the church. The church was hit several times, mostly in the bell tower. One hit made the organ play by itself, creating an eerie atmosphere on the battle field. After 7 February, the church was never again the target of military operations.

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