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THE OLD CHURCH OF ISOKYRÖ
This church, devoted to St. Laurentis, is the oldest and most remarkable historic sight in the whole of southern Ostrobotnia. Amidst the oldest settlement of the province it dominated all the large church province of Pohjankyrö, which, in the course of centuries, has been divided into 27 parishes.
According to tradition, on the very same spot there was a smaller wooden church. It was built by the monks of the monastery which was situated at the same place as the present-day vicarage of Isokyrö. The earliest phase of the church is represented by the vestry on the northern side of the church. Built of brick it is unique in our medieval church architecture.
The body of the church built of grey brick was, according to tradition, erected round the old wooden church. Some facts show that it is of a later date than the vestry, probably build towards the end of the 14 th century. The height of the firm walls, which are 5-7 feet thick, is 20 feet and the ridge of the steep shingle roof is as high as 80 feet. The armoury on the southern side was built later than the church. A number of legends are told about the building of the church, which must have been gigantic work of that age. The best-known of them is one that tells us that Tohni, a man from Töysä, carried a big stone bricked in the western gable, from as far as the Simpsiö in Lapua. That is why the round window under the stone is called " Tohni`s window". It is the only window that still has its original size. In the restoration of 1707 the windows of the southern wall and the eastern gable were enlarged ; at the same time a new window was broken through the northern wall. At some distance from the church itself there was a wooden bell tower, which was pulled down in 1881 and the bells of which now toll in the bell tower of the new church.
Among the belongings of the church we can see a number of medieval wood carvings. The statue of the second patron saint of the church, St. Henry,is no doubt of the greatest artistic value. This statues is representing St. Laurentis and a saint monk.Judging from the style, all the pieces of sculpture mentioned above are made in the early 1400 `s. The statue of St. George on the projection of the western gable, however, dates back to the late Middle Ages. From the same period are also the two large alter cupboards on both sides of the chancel window. The cupboards are full of pieces of sculpture from the Hanseatic period. The church also has two medieval cassocks and a memorial plaque from 1681 donated by the family Israel Alftan. The picture on it is supposed to represent the old church as it was then.
The most remarkable sight in the church is, however, the wall paintings. They are in three lines, one underneath the other. Jaakko Geet, the dean, had them painted at his own expense in the 1560`s. In these paintings, which are unique in our church art and which clearly represent the Renaissance, the unknown painter has used ochre and smoky grey colours mixed with limewater. Each of those lines consists of a series of pictures telling a Bible story:
the topmost series is made up of the stories of the Old Testament fromthe Creation to the Breaking of the Tables
the series in the middle consists of the story of Jesus `life and the Passion,
the towest series deals with the gospels of the church festivals. Besides these at the top of the chancel wall we can see the picture of the rising of the dead.
In 1666 the vicar of Isokyrö had the paintings covered with whitewash because he regarded them as unorthodox or primitive. They remain forgotten for over two centuries.
Ancient documents revealed the existence of the wall paintings, and they were discovered in 1885.
In 1770-1771 the furnishings of the church were renewed in the spirit of the Rococo, which is still to be seen, particularly in the graceful curves of the pulpit, alter and gallery.
The gallery which had covered the paintings was pulled down and the front of it with the pictures of the apostles was moved to its present place.
Until the middle of the 18th century the deceased were buried under the floor of the church.
When repairs were done in 1770 the graves were covered and after this the dead were buried in the tembs outside the church. In 1829 even these were destroyed and the present grave- yard was taken into use.
In the services men used to sit on one side and women on the other and the pew was assigned to each according to his or her social standing. Wrongdoers were punished in the stocks outside the church. The old church of Isokyrö has seen many kinds of events. Near its wall the men armed with clubs have had their meeting and near it they had a fight which was to be the beginning of the Club War. The island in the neighbourhood is supposed to have been the place where their leaders were executed. Since the Middle Ages the fairs of Henry and Larry were held near the church where people gathered together from as far as Turku and Stockholm. A whole`" church town " grew up round the church consisting of storehouses, church stables and other buildings.
Besides the Castle of Turku, the old church in Isokyrö is the only building in our country in which we can fully enter into the spirit of the Renaissance.
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