Seili (Själo in Swedish) is a small island in the Archipelago Sea. The island is known for its church and nature, a research institute and a former hospital. The first hospital on Seili was established in the 1620s. Before that there were two farms on the islands belonging to the Crown and thus available when the authorities looked for a suitable island to which the leper hospital at the outskirts of Turku could be moved.
According to a Royal Decree in 1619 by King Gustav Adolf of Sweden, the buildings of the hospital in Turku, with the exception of the chapel, were burned down and the inmates transported to Seili. The Selihospital for lepers was dedicated to St George. The last leper patient died in 1785, and the establishment on Seili became a hospital or a place of confinement for mentally afflicted people until 1962. The hospital was self-sufficient with agriculture, and fishing. The present-day buildings on the island, with the exception of the chapel, date from the 19th and the 20th centuries, and most of them have been built for the mental hospital.
The wooden chapel of Seili was built in as a replacement of the Church of Saint George, the former hospital church which had been transferred to Seili from Turku in the beginning of the 17th century. The museum church has a cross-shaped plan and it is made of pinewood grown in archipelago islands. The original untreated wooden surface can still be seen inside the church and nowadays it is beautifully patinated by passed centuries. The only colourful objects in the otherwise quite barren but impressive interior are the pulpit decorated by C.J. von Holthusen and the modernistic altarpiece The Storm on Lake Genesaret painted by the Finnish artist Helge Stén.
Currently the island hosts the Archipelago Research Institute that is a part of the University of Turku. The island is open to the public in summertime and there are guided tours available. During the summer season, the connecting ferry m/s Östern operates on the Nauvo-Seili-Hanka (Aasla, Rymättylä) route. Therefore, Seili is accessible from both Nauvo and Hanka.
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.