Tapio Autio

Lappajärvi (1956)

Tapio Autio is a police officer. He says that there was a point in his life when he had to choose whether to take the good or the evil path. The battle between the two was tough, but the good won and he decided to stick with it.

Tapio Autio started building his church from a stone painting that was to become the altarpiece. He had a vision to paint Christ’s face on a slate. Later he made more paintings with Biblical subjects and built a church for 120 people.

“Many have said to me that no man has the strength to build this by himself. I have only been God’s instrument; the plans have been given to me from above, outside myself, through my soul when they were complete. I have only executed the plans.”

Later Autio had a vision of an extension to the church, a cold hall and a room with a lamb altar. In the middle of the altar are the builder’s hand and footprints surrounded by 99 lambs painted on stone, which, together with the Biblical images on the walls, symbolise the story of the black sheep. Another reason as to why the church was built was to offer an altar for the present-day black sheep, where they could find their way back to their flock.

The Biblical lamb hall is made of Pihtiputaa slate, whereas the next hall, the hall of the Kalevala gods, is made of Alajärvi slate. The types of stone are different, and they tell their own stories and were chosen for a purpose. The Kalevala hall houses pictures of Ukko the High God, Death aka the Grim Reaper, the Forest Spirit and Ahti, the god of the sea.

“Even in the Kalevala era, godliness and ungodliness, good and evil were competing. The people in those days shared many of our characteristics. Greed and envy ruled even then. Yet they had much more respect for the environment and, for example, the bear – the king of the forest – than we do. The themes of Kalevala can be applied to the present day, for there still are winners and losers. Man is always the same. It is his surroundings that change.”

Text: Vuokko Keto. Photos: Aki Paavola.