Top historic sites in Turku

Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova

Aboa Vetus (Old Turku) is a museum of archaeological history. Originally, plans were for only Ars Nova, the contemporary art museum, but during its construction a number of structures and artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages were discovered, and the archaeological excavation that was commissioned eventually transformed into Aboa Vetus. The two museums were combined in 2004.The ruins excavated in the Convent Quarter or ...
Founded: ca. 15th century | Location: Turku, Finland

Turku Cathedral

Turku Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and the country's national shrine. It is the central church of the Archdiocese of Turku and the seat of the Archbishop of Finland. It is also regarded as one of the major records of Finnish architectural history.The cathedral was originally built out of wood in the late 13th century, and was dedicated as the main cathedral of Finland in 13 ...
Founded: 1400-1410 | Location: Turku, 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

Forum Marinum

The Forum Marinum Maritime Centre exhibits seafaring history and traditions of the nautical culture in the southwest of Finland, history of the naval forces and the maritime history collections of Åbo Akademi University and Provincial Museum.In addition to permanent and temporary exhibitions there are several museum ships located to the museum or near Aurajoki river. Most well-known ships are full-rigger Suomen Jousten ( ...
Founded: 1999 | Location: Turku, Finland

Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum

Luostarinmäki is the only unified part of the Turku city that survived the conflagration of 1827. The area consists of 18 blocks of original 18th century – early 19th century buildings on their original location. Today Luostarinmäki is an outdoor museum that offers over 30 workshops from different fields of craftmanship display the City's handicrafts history and craftsmen's dwellings.During the summer season, the muse ...
Founded: ca. 1800 | Location: Turku, Finland

Brinkhall Manor

Brinkhall manor house dates back to the 16th century. The current main building was built in 1793 and it was the first neo-classical manor house in Finland. It was designed by Gabriel von Bondorff. The interior is from 1920s. Brinkhall is also known as remarkable gardens. The English garden was one of the first in this style in Finland in the beginning of 19th century.The manor is today owned by the Finnish Cultural Herit ...
Founded: 1793 | Location: Turku, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.