Fortresses 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

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

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

Bomarsund

Bomarsund fortress and garrison was built in 1832-1854 by Russian Empire to defence Åland Islands against enemies. British and French fleet attacked against it during the Crimean War in 1854. After a week of fighting the British stormed the remaining fort. Anglo-French forces destroyed it totally after battle. In the Treaty of Paris 1856, the entire Åland Islands were demilitarized, which is a status that has been prese ...
Founded: 1832-1854 | Location: Sund, 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

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

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

Orivirran Saarto

Orivirran saarto is a ruin of the 16th century fortress. It was built probably in 1540's, because in 1546 Russians complained about Swedish cutting forest and gathering stones in Orivirta. There were probably a main castle, outer fortication, watchtower and dock. During 16th century it was garrisoned by 400-600 men and 5-10 cannons.In 1592 Russian cossacks destroyed the fortress. In a fight over 200 men were died and ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Savonlinna, Finland

Brahelinna

Brahelinna ("Brahe Castle") was built by the Swedish soldier and stateman Per (Pietari) Brahe in 1646–1669. Brahe was a Governor General in Finland and Ristiina town part of his fiefdom. Brahelinna contained 15-20 rooms and was used for living from the year 1657. Some planned parts were never completed.Brahelinna was abandoned during the Great Northern War in the beginning of the 18th century and finally demolished ...
Founded: 1646-1669 | Location: Ristiina, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.