Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church

Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church in Inari Finnish Lapland / Copyright www.lifeinlapland.com

(The church in summer time)

The Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church was built in 1760 and is one of the oldest buildings in northern Lapland, located at the former winter village of Inari which is about 8 km away from Inari village today. Seasonal migration was a customary part of the Inari Sámi's way of life in the past and Pielpajärvi became the centre of Inari's winter village during the 1600's. While families migrated from place to place depending on fishing and hunting activities during the rest of the year, all families resided in one area during the winter - the winter village.

The first church in Pielpajärvi was built in 1646 yet was not large enough to fit the needs of the community as well as the ministers who traveled to Inari to hold services, and thus a new church came under construction in 1752, being completed by 1760. The Pielpajärvi Church served also as a social centre for Inari's community as markets were held on the grounds, taxes were collected, and court sessions were conducted. Due to foraging wildlife, no cemetery was ever created in the vicinity as the dead were instead buried on the Hautuumaasaaret islands, in nearby Lake Inari.

The church was used until the mid-1800's when its deteriorating condition led to a new church to be built by the mouth of the Juutuanjoki, where the current village of Inari began to develop. The Pielpajärvi Church was temporarily abandoned but was reopened in 1940 after the Juutuanjoki church was destroyed in the Winter War.

The Pielpajärvi Church was renovated in 1976 by the Finnish National Board of Antiquities and is now a national cultural relic protected by law. Today, services are held at the church twice per year, on Easter and at Midsummers. The church is also occasionally used for weddings.

A 5km trail leads through a scenic forest to the church from the Sarviniementie parking area and there is a campfire site about halfway up the trail on the shore of Pikku Pielpajärvi. The trail continues its way to an open meadow and stone field where the church stands, surrounded by birch trees. There is another campfire site by the church on the shores of Iso Pielpajärvi. The church is open to the general public (who are willing to hike to there) for visiting at any time of year and there is no fee to enter.