Eliel Gottlieb Saarinen

St. Paul’s Church of Tartu was designed by Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen. Saarinen is one of the most important and well-recognized Finnish architects from the first half of the 20th century and the designer of many important national buildings such as The National Museum of Finland in Helsinki and The Helsinki Central railway station. Saarinen’s studio home in Hvitträsk Kirkkonummi (1902) is one of the main tourist attractions in Finland. Other works of Saarinen in Estonia include the workers’ diner/community center in Luther’s factory on Vana-Lõuna Street, Tallinn (1905), and former main building of Krediidipank on Pärnu mnt. 10, Tallinn, the latter currently houses the Ministry of Culture (1912).  

St. Paul’s Church of Tartu is the only church from Eliel Saarinen’s Finnish period, before he moved to America. Even though he designed many churches, only St. Paul’s was built.

St. Paul’s Church of Tartu is a very exceptional work in Eliel Saarinen’s creation, because it combines different styles occurring throughout his creations in a rare and peculiar way St. Paul’s Church of Tartu’s architecture represents turning your back on historicism and mirroring historical sacral architecture. In St. Paul’s Church of Tartu, Eliel Saarinen has successfully blended National Romantic geometrical elements in the interior with classicism-oriented and monumental elements in the exterior. St. Paul’s Church of Tartu is the first Estonian Art Nouveau church. Therefore the church is a unique architectural monument in the Baltic region. St. Paul’s church is unique in Estonia because of Art Nouveau style, that’s why the building catches tourist’s attention. Eliel Saarinen himself views St. Paul’s church as an important work, because St. Paul’s church’s image is exhibited in Saarinen’s studio-museum among his most important works. 

Eliel Saarinen has designed great number of churches, but below is the list of the churches that were actually built:

Tartu St. Paul’s – designed in 1913, construction completed in 1917, 1919
Tabernacle Church of Christ, Columbus, Indiana 1939-42
Christ Church, Cincinnati, Ohio 1948
Lutheran Christ Church, Minneapolis, Missouri 1948-49
Stephens College Chapel, Columbia, Missouri 1949-50
Church designs that were not realized:
The Methodist church in Sweden, Helsinki 1904
Crematorium in Helsinki 1910, 1915 (two separate projects)
Church of Huopalahti, Helsinki parish 1918
Christian Science church, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1925-26