History of Petäjävesi

Early history of Petäjävesi

Petäjävesi was an area of Hunting culture until the Middle Ages. Hunter-gatherers from Häme visited the area regulary. Petäjävesi acquired its first permanent inhabitants in the Middle Ages but Petäjävesi remained as a sparsely populated and remote area until the 19th century. The first christian cemetaries were established after the beginning of permanent settlement. The immigration from Savo in the 1550-1560's increased the number of houses to 13 houses. Petäjävesi was part of Jämsä mother parish and Petäjävesi was called Kuivasmäki at that time.

Building the first church

Peasants of Kuivasmäki, nowadays called Petäjävesi, built their first church in 1724 without permission. King Frederik I of Sweden granted the people of Petäjävesi permission to build a small church with a graveyard on 3rd December 1728. The modest church was however in poor condition already by the 1760's and the population of Kuivasmäki had risen to 700 inhabitants. Peasants of Kuivasmäki started to plan the building process of a bigger church.

Building the Old Church at Petäjävesi

The Old Church at Petäjävesi was marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 as an excellent example of a Lutheran country church built of logs. The Old Church represents an architectural tradition unique to eastern Scandinavia.

The old church at Petäjävesi was built from 1763 until 1765 to act as a village church in the parish of Jämsä; the dedication did not, however, take place until 1778. The church was built under the instruction of master builder Jaakko Klemetinpoika Leppänen. Leppänen had taken example of European church architecture and was able to plan a church based on these designs using logs. The bell tower was built by Erkki Jaakonpoika Leppänen, the grandson of the original master builder, in 1821.

In 1779 Petäjävesi was made a subordinate parish and in 1867 an independent parish.

The church was no longer used after 1879 when a new church was constructed. The cemetary of the Old Church remained in use however. Nowadays the Old Church at Petäjävesi is used for worship on summer Sundays and for summer concerts on Wednesdays. It is one of the Finland's most well loved wedding churches.