The Mummy

 

St. Michael’s Church in Keminmaa was built in 1521-1553. The church features original artefacts and ceiling paintings, as well as its most famous pastor, Rungius, who predicted he would not rot after his death. His mummy lies under the floor of the church, where he was also buried after his death in 1629.

 

The story of the mummy

The oldest church in Sea Lapland is the Old Church of Keminmaa, or St. Michael’s Church, which was completed in 1553 and is the northernmost surviving medieval stone church in Finland. The church is also famous because the mummy of Pastor Rungius (who died in 1629) can be seen under the floor. Rungius was said to have said in his lifetime, “If my words are not true, my body will rot, but if they are true, it will never rot.”

Archaeologist Tiina Väre has a doctorate in Rungius’ mummy, according to which the statement may be a later advertisement for the church’s message. Rungius himself may have thought that his body would survive and explained it with his creed. At the time, people knew there were mummies under the church. In the 17th century, it was explained by divine influence.

The survival of the body was not a surprise. The humidity below the church has been measured, but the conditions under the floor are not particularly dry. There must have been adequate ventilation for mummification. In Finnish conditions, cold is also a factor that promotes mummification.

Fact: Nikolaus Rungius

  • Born in Loimaa around 1560. Died in Kemi in 1629.
  • Served as pastor of the historic Kemi parish in the early 17th century.
  • According to the custom of the time, Rungius was buried under his home church
  • The pastor’s mummy has been on display since the 18th century. Since the 1930s, the mummy has been in a glass coffin. Before that, the mummy was in a grave under the floor.
  • The right forearm and most of the bone and soft tissue in the neck are gone.
  • Based on stable isotope analyzes performed on Mummy, Rungius’ diet has been high in protein. 
  • Computed tomography of Rungius’ spine has shown signs of a possible inflammatory condition caused by tuberculosis and calcification of the breasts, which may be due to gynecomastia, or hyperplasia of the mammary glands in men.

Source: University of Oulu

The church is open during the summer and there is a guide presenting the church.