Church Building

Orthodox Church Building

An Orthodox church building is always built in the east-west direction, the altar being at the east end of the building. The vestibule of the church symbolizes the penitent world, the nave the church militant and the altar room the church triumphant, and the coming world i.e. the Kingdom of God towards which the members of the church militant are heading. 

The altar room and the nave are united by the icon wall called iconostasis. Orthodox churches are built and decorated to be as beautiful as possible because the church is considered heaven on earth. In Valamo monastery this is visible particularly well during major church feasts when the church is decorated with flowers.

Orthodox churches are built and decorated to be as beautiful as possible because the church is considered heaven on earth. 


The church bells are rung by hand about fifteen minutes before the service begins. First one bell is rung fifty times, after which several bells are rung in different ways depending on the type of the service that is about to begin.

The bells are rung in connection with processions, at certains points during the vigil and the liturgy, and also when a bishop is entering the church. During the bright weak, which starts at Pascha (Easter), traditionally anyone is allowed to ring the bells at any time of the day.


The cross is a symbol that all Christians have in common. In Finland, the Orthodox typically uses so called Slavic cross. The cross has three horizontal crossbeams. The top one represents the plat that had the inscription "Jesus Christ of Nazareth King of the Jews". 

The slanted crossbeam under the feet of Christ reminds of the two thieves that were crucified together with Jesus. The thief on the left side of Christ mocked him and perished. The so called wise thief on the right side repented and was saved. This is the reason why one end of the slanted crossbeam points up and the other end down. Also other kinds of crosses are used by the Orthodox. For example the Greek Orthodox often use a cross whose arms are of equal length. Also the simple Latin cross, which is also common in the Lutheran church, is used by the Orthodox church.

A cross that stands on a grave is for Christians a sign of faith and hope in the resurrection of the dead. It also reminds of the unity of the living and the dead through prayer. Traditionally the crosses that are erected on graves are made of wood just like the cross of Christ was made out of wood.