This group of four giant, humanoid statues adorns the front of the beautiful, Art Nouveau Helsinki Central Station. The station’s architecture is a huge draw, but these magnificent figures are worthy of a visit in their own right, for the purist value of the art as well as the often amusing adornments that they wear from time to time.
Designed by Emil Wickström, the Lyhdynkantajat, or Lantern Bearers, have graced the front of the building, two on either side of the entrance, since 1914, apart from an absence for restoration in 2013. Each figure holds two almost spherical lighting globes which are illuminated at night.
Above the waist, these figures have a muscular torso, but their legs are replaced by stone columns in a style reminiscent of the art of Egypt and Assyria. Each of the Finnish granite figures were copied from the same plaster original, which was said to have been modeled on a Finish peasant named Jalmari Lehtinen.
These figures are very popular and have been featured in a number of advertising campaigns. They have been adorned with medical face masks in support of Covid-19 precautions, and in athletic garb in support of the Finnish football team, with the lanterns disguised as soccer balls. Parodies of the figures are even used to support the railing of the monorail track in a nearby theme park. In 2017, Lyhdynkantajat wore face masks to advertise a Kiss concert in the city.
The state railway also used images of the four figures in an advertising campaign in which the figures have legs and go by the alternative, popular name of Kivimiehet, or “The Stone Men.” The drawings of the figures are featured in locations throughout Finland, including several cities and Sápmi, or Lapland, as a means of encouraging tourism by rail.