Retired Tankar pilot Bo-Göran Klingenberg rings the bells of Tankar Church for peace.

Church bells in every church in the country will ring for peace in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24.2.2022

Tankar – a historical fishing village

During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, fishermen from Lochteå, Kelviå, Karleby, Öja, Larsmo, and Kronoby travelled to Tankar.

Tankar was a well-known fishing spot mainly dedicated to herring fishing. In 1860, there were about fifty harbour owners on the island.

Thirty years later, the number had halved, and by 1927, only nine boat crews remained on Tankar.

There was no church on the island. During the pastoral visitation of 1710, priests in Karleby were urged to travel to the fishing island to hold services during the herring fishing season. It seemed that the priests did not heed this request, since in 1727, fishermen on Tankar along with fishermen from other fishing villages were urged to attend services at the mother church.

The church is built

In 1754, Tankar finally got its own church. The church was built by fishermen who owned it and continued to be responsible for its maintenance. The Karleby mother church participated in founding the church with a donation of 20 copper dollars. Originally, the church was located at the island’s highest point, but it was moved to its current location in 1889 when the lighthouse was built.

Externally, the church resembles the fishermen’s summer residences, where they used to live with their families while fishing in the waters around the island. The church is 8.2 metres long, 6.25 metres wide, and the side walls are 2.8 metres high. The height of the gables is 4.3 metres.

The interior of the church is simple. The pulpit is low and built of boards lying flat. There are about 100 seats in the church, divided among 18 pews. In the history of the Karleby parish written by Sigrid Nikula, it is mentioned that the church pews were unpainted until 1951 when the new fixed furnishings were coated with light blue-grey oil paint. That year, new frames were installed alongside glass in the windows, and the exterior walls, window frames, and other features were painted. In 1921, the church was painted with red ochre and copper smoke, and in 1928 the roof and window shutters were repaired. A new wooden staircase was built in front of the entrance in 1964. In the same year, the collection plate was renewed with violet velvet.

The church pews are adorned with carved markings, and the log walls bear names and dates in pencil.

The fishermen originally owned the church, and they maintained it until 1951. At that time, the Swedish Association in Gamlakarleby rovided money for repairs. During the summer of 1956, when the church celebrated its 200th anniversary, the Swedish parish of Karleby announced that they would take over the maintenance of the church if the fishermen, lighthouse keepers, and pilots on the island requested it.

The church bell under the thatched roof canopy not only called the residents of Tankar to worship but also to other gatherings. It was used when a harbour meeting was to commence. There was also a tradition to ring the church bell to gather people together quickly in case of potential danger (such as a fire or the like).

The services previously

The assistant parish priest’s task was to conduct the services on Tankar. He arrived in early summer when the fishing was in full swing and stayed for a few weeks. During that time, he served not only as a priest but also as a harbour master. His salary was 10- 12 half barrels of herring per season.

During the 19th century, the visits of the priests became more sporadic. They made rousing notes in pencil in the pulpit concerning these occasional preaching trips. A.W. Bergman wrote that he preached without a manuscript in Finnish and Swedish on August 29, 1867. W. Wegelius delivered a sermon on August 11, 1872, and a prayer on August 13, each time in both native languages.

Activity in the church during the 21st century

Today, the church is a popular wedding venue. Occasionally, baptisms have also been held here.

During the 21st century, the Swedish Parish of Karleby, together with the Snoan Retreat Centre and later in cooperation with the Church Youth Association, have organized silent retreats in the spring and autumn. The retreats include prayers and morning masses in the church. Several church concert series have also been organized in the church. The Tankar gathering, celebrated on the last weekend of July, traditionally begins in the church with a bilingual devotion, often a musical one.

President Sauli Niinistö and his wife, Jenni Haukio, visited Tankar Church on June 8, 2017, while he was still in office.

The church turns 270

In 2024, Tankar Church will celebrate its 270th anniversary, and there will be evening prayers every Saturday during the summer.

During the summer months, the church is open every day from early morning until late evening.

Groups visiting Tankar can organize their own devotions during their visit. The Finnish congregation and other church denominations have occasionally organized so-called church Sundays.