UNESCO World Heritage Sites 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

Old Rauma

Old Rauma is the largest unified historical wooden town in the Nordic countries. Fire has destroyed it several times since 1500s, last major one occured in 1682. There are 600 buildings in old town, mostly privately owned. Oldest still existing houses are from the 18th century.Locations of special interest include the Kirsti house, which is a seaman's house from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Marela house, which is ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Rauma, Finland

Petäjävesi Old Church

Petäjävesi old church was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. It was designed and built in 1763-64 by a local peasant master-builder, and in 1821 his grandson added the bell tower at the west end. Petäjävesi was then part of the Jämsä congregation, but the trip to Jämsä church was too long for local people. The Crown of Sweden had accepted the request to build a gra ...
Founded: 1763-1764 | Location: Petäjävesi, Finland

Verla

Verla is a well-preserved 19th century mill village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The first groundwood mill at Verla was founded in 1872 by Hugo Nauman but was destroyed by fire in 1876. A larger groundwood and board mill, founded in 1882 by Gottlieb Kreidl and Louis Haenel, continued to operate until 1964.The Verla groundwood and board mill and its associated habitation are an outstanding and remarkably we ...
Founded: 1872-1882 | Location: Kouvola, Finland

Sammallahdenmäki

Sammallahdenmäki is a Bronze age burial site including 36 granite burial cairns dating back more than 3000 years, from 1500 to 500 BC. Sammallahdenmäki is an exceptionally valuable example of Finland’s Bronze Age culture because it presents the ancient monuments in a well-preserved natural milieu. It’s designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.Two of the most spectacular cairns are the qua ...
Founded: 1500 - 500 B.C. | Location: Rauma, 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.