Welcome to the Lohtaja vicarage



The present Lohtaja vicarage from the early 1800s has been a central place in the history of the region. Over the centuries, it has been a religious as well as a cultural centre. It is located along the old Bothnian Coast Road. Already in the time when Finland was part of the Swedish Empire, this important cavalry and post road led from Finland Proper (in the south-west part of Finland) to Tornio and even to Stockholm.

The Lohtaja vicarage is also known as the Saukko vicarage because they say there were lots of otters on the shore of Pappilanlahti bay. The bay no longer exists, but you can see it on old maps and imagine it as part of the present vicarage setting.

Entrance to the well-maintained vicarage yard, which used to be a closed yard, is through a two-storey granary (luhti) from the mid-1700s. The vicarage cellar is much older than the main building itself – as far as is known, originally from the 1600s. Sweden and Russia signed an armistice agreement in the vicarage in 1808, which is commemorated by a brass plaque on the wall of the vicarage. One of the rooms has been preserved the way it was in the 1800s and named ‘the Klingspor chamber’ in memory of the armistice.

Today the vicarage hosts the Lohtaja parish office and employees’ offices, and children’s day clubs, youth evenings and other parish events are organised there. In the summer, during the Lohtaja Church Music Festival, visitors are offered an art exhibition as well as coffee with pastries at the Ruustinnan kahvipöytä. On agreement, the vicarage is open for visitors at other times as well. Small-scale concerts and parties with coffee or meal services can also be organised in the vicarage.

Welcome to the Lohtaja vicarage!


Lohtaja vicarage

Alaviirteentie 105 Lohtaja


The Lohtaja (or Saukko) vicarage was built by farmers and skilled carpenters in an old vicarage area, at former Pappilanlahti bay. The name Saukko probably comes from the times of the first vicarage at the turn of the 1500s and the 1600s, when otters (saukko in Finnish) were common around Pappilanlahti bay. During the time of the present vicarage, the ancient bay has been a small lake. Already in the mid-1700s, people applied for permission to drain this bay for use as meadows and pastureland for cows. The draining of the lake was opposed, however, because it was regarded as more harmful than beneficial. Still in the 1940s the lake, which had shrunk to a shallow pond, was a popular fishing and adventure venue for children. In winter, horse races were organised on frozen Pappilanlahti.


Anders Chydenius, in his role as rural dean, is said to have drafted a preliminary building plan for the vicarage on his inspection visit, and the drawing by the bookkeeper Johan Blomström was approved in the parish meeting in December 1797. The building project was then led by Erkki Jukkola, master builder and churchwarden. The vicarage was habitable in 1803, and Vicar Anders Törnudd, the former chaplain of Kauhajoki, moved there with his family. The construction of the main building was still partly unfinished in spring 1804, but four years later, at the latest, the vicarage was apparently presentable enough for the armistice agreement, even though the outer walls still lacked board cladding.


During the Finnish War, the vicarage served as the headquarters of the commander-in-chief of the Finnish army, Wilhelm Klingspor. In late September 1808, an armistice agreement was signed between Sweden and Russia. In addition to Klingspor, the agreement was signed by the commander-in-chief of the Russian army Nikolai Kamenski and his advisor Jan Peter van Suchtelen. However, the war continued, and a year later Finland was incorporated into the Russian empire and became an autonomous Grand Duchy.


The main building of the vicarage has naturally been repaired, embellished and altered over the last two centuries, but overall it has remained as it was. The building was covered with boards in 1820 and a double porch was built in 1875. The latest renovation was made between 2013 and 2015.


Nearly ten vicars lived in the vicarage throughout their entire terms of office. The last one was Mikko Himanka (1940–2016), who lived in the vicarage until his retirement in 2003. Even after him, the vicarage hosted Vicar Tuomo Jukkola for a couple of years.


Entrance to the well-maintained vicarage yard, which used to be a closed yard, is through a two-storey granary (luhti) from the mid-1700s. The vicarage cellar is much older than the main building itself, apparently from the 1600s.  




Before the railway was built, many kinds of people travelled on the Bothnian Coast Road. So-called dignitaries took lodgings at vicarages rather than at inns. There were also some disadvantaged people among the travellers. The story goes that the wife of one Lohtaja vicar was not particularly friendly with the beggars who came to the kitchen door – so they received no food from the vicarage. Then a maid started to work in the kitchen and, in Christian spirit, secretly gave food to the beggars. After the vicar’s wife died, she appeared in the maid’s dreams asking to have some of the gratitude that the maid had received from the beggars. The maid turned to the vicar, who advised her to give the late wife a bit of the gratitude, as the maid herself had received so much. Soon the vicar’s wife appeared again in the maid’s dream with the same request. The maid retorted, “Take it all if you want!” and was thereafter able to sleep undisturbed. (Himanka: Lohtajan pappila 200 vuotta)


During the term of Vicar Arthur Keckman, Lohtaja and the rest of Finland faced a serious famine in the second half of the 1860s. For example, in Lohtaja there was a lot of snow until late spring 1867, so sowing started later than normally. People and animals ran out of food, and typhoid fever was common. Flour was imported from Russia and mixed with bark and straw flour in the Lohtaja vicarage. Baked bread was distributed to hungry parishioners. (Himanka: Lohtajan Joulu 1978)


Arthur Keckman tells about the pharmacy of the vicarage: “The most common medicines were salt liquor, floral spirits and so-called devil dung liquor.” Keckman found that particularly salt booze was a good cure for many diseases. (Himanka: Lohtajan Joulu 1979)


Vicar Mikko Himanka was a history enthusiast, who also received the ecclesiastical title of rovasti. His wife Maj-Britt Källström-Himanka thinks back to the time when the family moved from a small deaconess residence in Kaarlela to the Lohtaja vicarage: “The last day of July 1973, we moved to a large, historical, traditional vicarage and parish. I had a feeling – but no knowledge – of how my dear husband would be ´married to the parish´. And me, too.” Maj-Britt tells about the various tasks of the vicarage, for which they also needed to use different services. “Mikko and I had tried to make the vicarage more accessible. We knew that the local people are frugal and warm-hearted. When asked, they are ready to serve the community.” Maj-Britt says she is used to people coming to the vicarage also otherwise and sitting on the bench, telling stories. (Interviewer: Helena Anttiroiko-Mehtälä)




Lohtaja vicarage


Two-storey granary (luhti)


Pappilanlahti bay a long time ago


Lohtaja vicarage area a long time ago (K.H. Renlund Museum – Central Ostobothnia Regional Museum)


Lohtaja vicarage around 1920–1939 (Photo: Aarne Forsman / National Board of Antiquities - Musketti, Historian kuvakokoelma)


Lohtaja vicarage in 1808 (Helsingin Kaiku magazine 1908 / National Board of Antiquities - Musketti, Historian kuvakokoelma)


Voice (in Finnish)


Tihuntipäivät Lohtajan pappilassa 1870-luvulla (käsikirjoitus Oskari Tokoi)