Robert Stigell:
Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen, 1888
Old Student House, Mannerheimintie 3

Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen

The main doors of the old university building have been decorated with the key characters from the Finnish mythology: Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen. The sculptures are designed by Robert Stigell and were erected in 1888.

Stigell’s Väinämöinen plays the magical intrument, ”kannel”, made out of pike’s chin bones and enthralling the whole creation with his melodies. This is said to symbolise the very birth of Finnish artistry. Ilmarinen on the other hand is seen concentrating on ordinary tasks forging an important practical tool, the plough.

The sculptures of the old university building represent characteristics of our proto-heroes: Ilmarinen with his down to earth practical skills, Väinämöinen as the artistic and creative force. Both were involved in the national epic as the early champions of creation of the universe. Ilmarinen produced SAMPO and had been forging the sky lid, Väinämöinen is the mythical hero, eternal prophet, the courier carrying light, one that sustains life. He is also the creative innovator who crafted and build the first boat.

These heroes are described in an upward dynamic motion. The ”kannel” and plough strengthen, as the horizontal elements, symmetricity of the depicted characters. Stigell’s work is alluding to Finnish youth as spiritual and material constructors of society. Looking above the main doors we are reminded by this with the words ”Spei suae patria dedit” (”Fatherland gave to its hope”).

The old university building is one of the most central locations in Helsinki. Tens of thousands commuters and turists are passing the building every day.