Top Historic Sights in Hämeenlinna, Finland

Explore the historic highlights of Hämeenlinna

Häme Castle

The medieval castle of Häme is located on the coast of lake Vanajavesi. It was originally located on an island.The castle's age is disputed. Traditionally the construction of the castle has been connected to the legendary Second Swedish Crusade which would date the castle in the mid-13th century. However, there are no finds from the castle that can be firmly dated to a period earlier than 1320s. Also the contents of the ...
Founded: ca. 1250-1300 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Prison Museum

The prison museum introduces to the visitors the history of correctional treatment in Finland and the prison life in the past and these days. The most valuable item is the museum building itself with its authentic premises that have been maintained in their original condition since the time when the building still functioned as a prison. The building and the exhibition consist of three floors.The prison museum functions i ...
Founded: 1871 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Hämeenlinna Church

Hämeenlinna Church was built in 1798 as a rotunda modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. It is designed by Frenchman L. J. Desprez, the court architect of Sweden. The altar stood in the middle of the amphitheatre-shaped church, and the pulpit was above the sacristy door. Hämeenlinna church is one of the best samples of so-called Gustavian classism style in Finland.
Founded: 1792–1798 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Armoured Vehicle Museum

Parola Tank Museum, officially Armoured Vehicle Museum displays various tanks, armoured vehicles and anti-tank guns used by the Finnish Defence Forces throughout its history. A rare exhibit is an armoured train used in World War Two. A few kilometers away from the museum is also the Armoured Brigade. The museum was opened June 18, 1961, when there were 19 tanks and 12 anti-tank guns on display. Also Leopard 2A4, the lates ...
Founded: opened 1961 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

The Artillery Museum of Finland

The Artillery Museum of Finland is a special military museum dedicated to the history of the artillery from the 15th century to the present day. It was located in Niinisalo from 1977 to 1997 and in 1997 relocated to Hämeenlinna.There are almost a hundred guns, grenade launchers and rocket launchers of different make from 13 different countries. The gun collection of the museum is unique, the most comprehensive in the ...
Founded: 1850-1913 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Vanajanlinna

The history of the original estate of Vanajanlinna, Äikäälä, goes back to the Middle Ages. Historical records mention Olle af Aeykaelum (Olli of Äikäälä) as the owner of the Äikäälä estate in 1374. After him the farm has had many owners and a colourful history as a freehold and holding farm used for agriculture.The actual history of Vanajalinna begins from the year 1918, when the industrialist Carl Wilhelm Ros ...
Founded: 1924 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Vanaja Church

The Church of Vanaja is one of the smallest medieval churches in Finland. It was built probably between 1490-1510. Vanaja is one of the oldest parishes in Häme and it's quite probable there have been couple of wooden churches before the present one. There are many beautiful details and decorations inside the church, for example an exterior pulpit in stone wall and arm paintings of two noble families.
Founded: 1490-1510 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.