Siida Sää'mjie'llem
Skolt Sámi Life     Suomeksi  


The northern part of Lapland's Orthodox parish

The Chapel of St. Georgios in Neiden (Norway). Photo: Sámi Museum Siida

Northern Lapland got its Orthodox population as late as after World War II. At the time, the Skolt Sámi and the Karelians of Petsamo that had been evacuated from the Petsamo region - ceded to the Soviet Union after the war - were settled in the municipality of Inari. In addition to them, there are some Orthodox living in Inari who have moved to the area from the other parts of Finland or who have joined the Orthodox Church as adults. During the reconstruction period, two chapels were built in the Inari area: one in Ivalo and one in Sevettijärvi. The center of the parish is situated in Rovaniemi, where the pope of the parish also lives. The distance from Rovaniemi to Sevettijärvi is over 350 km. In Ivalo, there is a travelling Orthodox priest and a travelling cantor, who is Skolt Sámi himself.

The Orthodox churches of Inari

Today, there are three Orthodox churches in Inari: the St. Nikolaos Church in Ivalo, the Church of the Holy Trinity and St. Triphon of Petsamo in Nellim, and the Church of St. Triphon of Petsamo in Sevettijärvi. The church in Nellim was completed in 1988. The former chapels of Ivalo and Sevettijärvi were renovated and became churches in the 1990s.

The Church of the Holy Trinity in Nellim. Photo: Private Archive The Church of St. Triphon of Petsamo in Sevettijärvi. Interior. Photo: Private Archive

The churches of Nellim and Sevettijärvi are open for tourists and visitors, but the church in Ivalo is open only during the services held there. The church of Nellim is also used by the Lutheran parish of Inari. The Chapel of St. Paul in Saariselkä, owned by the Lutheran parish of Inari, is, on the other hand, used for ecumenic purposes.

The Keväjärvi chapel in the vicinity of Ivalo was finished in 2008. The small chapel is dedicated to Boris and Gleb according to the Old Pasvik Church. On Tsarmijärvi Lake in Nellim, there is a Traveller's Cross consecrated to the memory of the dead who were left in Petsamo and to the work of the generations born in Petsamo.

In the cemetery by the Nellim church, there is a memorial in the shape of a grobu, on which one can light candles for the dead buried elsewhere. By the Sevettijärvi church, in turn, there is a similar memorial for the dead who were left in Petsamo. The cemetery of Sevettijärvi, with its wooden crosses and graves that are covered with lichen, is a beautiful place for spending a quiet and devout moment.

The Orthodox Church enhances the use of Skolt Sámi

In 1983 came out the first book that the Finnish Orthodox Church has published in Skolt Sámi; it was a book of church songs. Today, the second, revised edition of this book, Ristoummi Mo'lidvake'rjj, is being used. In 1988, the Gospel according to John, in 1999, a handbook of the Orthodox faith and, in December 2002, the liturgy of Johannes Krysostomos were published in Skolt Sámi.

Church festivals in the Orthodox churches of Inari

The Ivalo church has its special festival on December 6th, on the day of St. Nikolaos, and the Sevettijärvi church on December 15th, on the death date of St. Triphon of Petsamo. The Nellim Church has its special festival on the Holy Trinity at Whitsun every year, and the chapel of Keväjärvi on July 24th. Because of the long distances, services are held alternately in the churches of Ivalo, Nellim and Sevettijärvi. The service of the Easter night is also held alternately in these three churches.

In Nellim, a common festival for the onset of Lent - Maslenitsa - has been arranged for a few times on the last Saturday before the period of fasting.

The annual pilgrimage of St. Triphon of Petsamo ends by the Neiden River. Photo: Private Archive

The most famous event in the northern Orthodox area is the annual pilgrimage of St. Triphon of Petsamo from Nellim to Sevettijärvi and often to Neiden in Norway, or even the Petsamo region. On the last weekend of August, Orthodox clergy, church choirs and members of the parish as well as others interested in the event gather in the northern landscape of Finland, to tread in the footsteps of St. Triphon.


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