The fire broke out in the 230-year-old church around 1630 GMT Saturday, Helsingin Sanomat reported. Residents have posted multiple pictures and videos from the scene on social media. Some of the clips captured the dramatic moment when the burning church’s belltower topples.
A video posted by Ilari Hintikka (@ilarihintikka) on Mar 26, 2016 at 12:06pm PDT
Over a dozen fire units reportedly arrived at the scene. The brigades had trouble accessing the scene due to the vehicles of many locals who came to witness the fire, Yle writes.
“People acted very irresponsibly, parking their cars on the bridge where they blocked the way,” Väinö Vähäsarja, Ylivieska resident said as quoted by Yle.
Despite the firemen’s efforts, only a few half-burned walls remained from the magnificent piece of wooden architecture, pictures from the scene show.
Ylivieska church was expected to hold the Easter mass on Saturday night. And it did, against all odds. The service took place in front of the ruins at midnight, where the congregation mourned the loss of the cathedral and prayed for new beginnings.
“This was an important church for so many locals. But we held mass in the spirit of the Easter sermons and ultimately with feelings of hope,” church spokesperson Jussi Leppälä was quoted by Yle as saying.
Ylivieska vicar Timo Määttä agrees on the matter. “Christ has risen. It is the most important news. Although the church has been burnt and lost, Christ has risen, and it is a message of life and hope,” he said.
The arsonist accused of setting the fire was detained, local police reports as cited by the media. The man is in custody and has reportedly confessed to setting the building on fire. His motives however are still unclear.