It was Miko’s final day at childcare before the July break. How best to use my time seeing the sights of Helsinki without my two-year old in tow? The Chapel of Silence? Sounds perfect!
Like the hull of a giant wooden boat, Kamppi Chapel looms high above a bustling market square outside one of Helsinki’s busiest malls and transport hubs. We have walked past it numerous times and I have to admit I’ve never given it a second thought.
It’s a lovely sight, the warm wood rising above as students, workers and tourists move about like pieces on a giant concrete chessboard.
It’s easy to get church-fatigue when sight-seeing in Europe, and an edifice made of wood is no big deal to New Zealanders, but this is an architectural pleasure and a welcome relief from high-vaulted stone cathedrals.
The chapel doesn’t hold services or events such as weddings and is operated by a partnership of Helsinki parishes and the city’s Social Services Department. When I entered I could hear someone behind a screen weeping softly as they spoke with the Social Worker on duty. I was ushered into the chapel where I sat down on a pew and just absorbed absolute silence. It was an incredible contrast to the noise and hustle outside. I felt like I was inside a giant, warm wooden egg.
The Chapel contains pews, a pulpit and a place to burn thin tapered candles. There’s also a pile of cushions shaped like rocks that reflect the colours of river stones. I sat for about 15 minutes before heading back out into the hustle of the streets and off to pluck Miko from a mob of excitable kids at daycare. Being in the Chapel is not quite like taking Valium, but it was all the Mother’s Little Helper that I needed.