Castles and fortifications in Finland

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna ("Sveaborg", "Viapori") sea fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Finland’s most popular tourist attractions. The construction of the fortress started by the king of Sweden in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. Suomenlinna was planned to be a principal base for naval military operations and the general responsibility for the fortification work was given to Augustin Ehrensvärd. Th ...
Founded: 1748-1917 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Turku Castle

Turku castle is a national monument and one the most remarkable medieval castles in Finland. It's also one of the largest existing castles in Scandinavia. A history of Turku castle begins from the year 1280. The Swedish conquerors of Finland intended it originally as a military fortress.During 15th and 16th centuries its defences were strengthened and living quarters were added. The castle served as a bastion and administ ...
Founded: 1280 | Location: Turku, Finland

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

Olavinlinna

Olavinlinna ("St. Olaf's Castle" or "Olofsborg") is one of the greatest medieval castles in Finland. It was built to secure the eastern border of the Kingdom of Sweden-Finland. The construction started in 1475 by Erik Axelsson Tott. Russians disturbed construction work sequently, because the castle was sited in Savonia to the Russian side of the border established by the Treaty of Nöteborg. Olavinlinna was completed prob ...
Founded: 1475-1483 | Location: Savonlinna, Finland

Lappeenranta Fortress

There have been some fortifications in Lappeenranta city from the 17th century. After the defeat of Sweden-Finland in Great Northern War 1700-1721 Viborg castle and large areas in Carelia were lost to Russia. The military value of Lappeenranta, the new border city, was suddenly increased. The construction of the new bastion fortress was started immediatelly after war in 1721. It was planned to be a part of the new defence ...
Founded: 1721-1792 | Location: Lappeenranta, Finland

Hamina Fortress

Hamina fortress is a very rare circle fort, representing the Renaissance ideal city embodied by Palmanova city in Italy. It was built after Great Northern War to the ruins of Vehkalahti town. After Treaty of Nystadt border between Sweden and Russia was moved to Kymeenlakso area in Finland. The construction of the fortress started began by Swedish general Axel von Löwen in 1720s. Protected by six bastions of the fort ...
Founded: 1720-1803 | Location: Hamina, Finland

Raasepori Castle

The Raseborg or Raasepori Castle is one the five remaining medieval castles in Finland. It was founded by Bo Jonsson Grip and it is thought that the castle's first phase was completed sometime between 1373 and 1378. The first written data about the castle is from 1378. Its main purpose was to protect Sweden's interests in southern Finland against the Hanseatic city of Tallinn. The castle was originally built on a small is ...
Founded: 1360-1378 | Location: Raasepori, Finland

Kastelholma Castle

First record of Kastelholma (or Kastelholm) castle is from the year 1388 in the contract of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, where a large portion of the inheritance of Bo Jonsson Grip was given to the queen. The heyday of the castle was in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was administrated by Danish and Swedish kings and stewards of the realms. Kastelhoma was expanded and enhanced several times.In the end of 16th century ...
Founded: 1388 | Location: Sund, Finland

Svartholma Fortress

Svartholma sea fortress was built by Swedish in the 18th century. Svartholma and near Loviisa land fortress were designated to defence strategic road from Turku tu Viborg and Sweden-Finland's eastern border against Russians. Svartholma construction started in 1748 and it was mostly completed in the 1760's. Svartholma was a typical bastion system including four bastions and an outer fortification.Svartholma played an signi ...
Founded: 1748-1770 | Location: Loviisa, Finland

Ruotsinsalmi Sea Fortress

Ruotsinsalmi fortress was built by Russians in 1790-1796. It was part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system which was planned to defence St. Petersburg. The sea fortress was located to islands in front of the city of Kotka and Kyminlinna fortress. It contained three main strongholds (Fort Katarina, Fort Elisabeth and Fort Slava) and several redoubts and artillery batteries.Ruotsinsalmi fortress lost its origin ...
Founded: 1790-1796 | Location: Kotka, Finland

Loviisa Fortress

After the Sweden's defeat in Russo-Swedish War 1741-1743 (also known as the Hats' Russian War) eastern border of Finland was moved to west. Important fortresses of Hamina, Lappeenranta and Savonlinna were left to Russian side of border. The city of Loviisa was established in 1745 to handle a international commerce in Finland. Planning of the new fortification system started concurrently, because Loviisa was located alongs ...
Founded: 1748-1757 | Location: Loviisa, Finland

Reposaari Fortress

Reposaari Fortress (Reposaaren linnakepuisto) was a coastal defence system built in the 1930s. It was designed to protect the important harbor of Pori against Russian fleet. The stronghold area is about 20 hectares and consists of two gun positions, magazines, dugouts, trenches etc. Wooden buildings have been reconstructed in the 1990-2000s. During the Winter War Reposaari Fortress eliminated one Russian bomber and heckl ...
Founded: 1930s | Location: Pori, Finland

Kärnäkoski Fortress

Kärnäkoski fortress was part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system built by Russians in the 1790's. Purpose of the fortress was to protect the strategic road to St. Petersburg and Russians fleet in Saimaa against Swedish enemies from the west. Building was started in 1790 by French engineer officers and it's a tradional French bastion system. Approximately 1400 Russian soldiers and local peasants wer ...
Founded: 1790-1793 | Location: Savitaipale, Finland

Kyminlinna

Kyminlinna fortress was part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system built by Russia after Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790. Kyminlinna and Ruotsinsalmi sea fortress formed together a defense line, which was planned to stop enemies attacking from the west. First fortress was a bastion constructed in 1791-1795 by the general Aleksandr Suvorov. The older part was replaced only couple of years later by the much bigge ...
Founded: 1791-1808 | Location: Kotka, Finland

Taavetti Fortress

Taavetti fort was built by Russians between years 1773 and 1803 to strategically important crossroads. It was part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system and meant to defence Russia against possible Swedish attacks. The first phase in 1773-1781 a circle bastion was completed. Inner parts were built in 1791-1796.Military use of Taavetti ended already in 1803. Fortress was nearly ruined when the renovation starte ...
Founded: 1773-1796 | Location: Luumäki, Finland

Utti Fortress

Utti fortress was built by Russians in 1791-1792 as part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system. It contained a main bastion system and two outer redoubts. It was meant to hold Swedish army until Taavetti fortress is occupied with reserves and ready to fight. Only one battle was fought in Utti during the Russo-Swedish War in 1789. Utti lost its military value in 1809 when Finland was joined to Russia. It was d ...
Founded: 1791-1792 | Location: Kouvola, Finland

Liikkala Fort

Liikkala fort was built by Russians in 1791-1792 as part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system. It was meant to defend the road from the Swedish border to Hamina, which the Swedish army had used to attack Hamina in the Russo-Swedish war in 1788. Liikkala contained two ground redoubts and four demi-bastions.After the Finnish War (1808-1809) Liikkala was abandoned, because the border was moved far away to west. ...
Founded: 1791-1792 | Location: Kouvola, Finland

Borgboda Hillfort

Borgboda (also called Borgberget), located in Borge hill, Saltvik, is the largest hillfort in Åland with an area of total three hectares. When it was in use, around 1000 AD, the hill was surrounded by water on three sides. Steep hill was enforced with walls of stone and timber, remains of which can still be seen, along with remains of a few buildings. It is believed that Borgboda was never permanently inhabited, but ...
Founded: Viking age | Location: Saltvik, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.