Särkilax chapel was the first church building in Övertorneå. It was located about three kilometres up the river, north of the present church and was mentioned for the first time in 1482 in a letter to the archbishop Jakob Ulfsson.
In 1615 the spring flood and the break up of the ice were exceptionally strong and violent and the river washed away the old chapel with all its precious equipment.
THE 17 TH CENTURY CHURCH
A new church was built on a safer spot (where it now stands) at the foot of Särkivaara hill, between 1615 and 1617. In 1717 the church was plundered by Russian Cosacks. They took the churchbell and some other valuabel things. The 76-year old vicar, Johannes Tornberg, tried to stop them. But they hit him so badly with his own walkinqstick, that he died two days later. His stick is still kept in the sacristy.
THE PRESENT CHURCH
Between 1735 and -37 the old church was reconstructed and enlarged to a cruciform church. The skilful church builder, Hans Gabrielsson Biskop from Kronoby in Österbotten, was in charge of the reconstruction and artistic disign of the church.
The two side galleries were built and decorated with paintings later on, in 1776. From 1899 to 1903 there was a new restoration, when the chancel got painted and decorated. In 1935 the partition wall taken away, only to be put back in between 1969 and -71 when the latest restoration took place and great efforts were made to restore the style and colours of the 17 th century church.
Övertorneå church is one of the most beautiful and best kept of the 17 th century churches in the north of Sweden and Finland. No radical changes have been made out but since the days of Hans Gabrielsson Biskop.
THE BELL TOWER
The bell tower, which dates from 1763, has got some very interesting external paintings of a kind that is not often to be seen in Western Europe, but may point to an easterly influence.
The organ is the oldest big, still in use 16 th century organ in Sweden. It was originally built in 1609 in Spandau, Germany by Paulus Müller. He built it for the German Church in Stockholm. In 1780 the organ was bought to Övertorneå church for a sum of 250 Swedish crowns. It has later been completely restored.
THE ALTAR PIECE
The altar piece represents the women at the tomb of Christ. It was painted by Karl Tiren in 1903 and is, in fact, a copy of a painting by Axel Enders hanging in Molde church, Norway. Tiren´s picture replaced, as altar piece, the three paintings now hanging on the wall above the southern gallery.
The pulpit and the sanctuary barrier were carved by the builder of the church, Hans Gabrielsson Biskop. They are good examples of a provincial baroque style, inspired and influenced by great masters like Burchart Precht in Uppsala.
Tradition tells, that about year 1500 archbishop Jacob Ulfsson presented his most northern church with the late medieval wooden sculptures, that are now some of the most precious treasures of the chuch. They probably originate from the cathedral in Uppsala. When the Särkilax chapel was destroyed by the spring flood, all the sculptures were washed away, but were later found by haymakers working on the river banks further South.
The most famous of the sculptures is the Madonna sculpture, designed to be opened like a small cupboard. When her mantle like dress is opened, one can see God Father sitting on his throne surrounded by worshippers.