Pispala is a city district located on the northern slope of Pispalanharju, the highest esker in Finland. Together with Pyynikki, Pispala is widely considered the most beautiful district of Tampere and tourists are often guided there for the view and the unique urban design features of the area.
Pispala is named after the House of Pispa, which had the obligation to house the bishops during their travel. Pispala was all farming land until as recently as 1869. As Tampere was industrialised Pispala grew without a unified local development plan, resulting in unique building styles and solutions. Pispala has always had a strong labour background and in the beginning of the 20th century it was the heart of labour movement in Tampere. In the Civil War (1918) Pispala was the last stronghold of besieged red guards and lot of local inhabitants were killed in the war or executed after it.
Today Pispala is a popular residential area and together with neighbouring Pyynikki it forms an important historical area of Tampere. The unique architecture of small wooden houses and narrow streets is very well-preserved. Many well-known Finnish artists and celebrities have lived and live in Pispala including Lauri Viita, Olavi Virta, Mikko Alatalo, Hannu Salama, Seela Sella, Keith Armstrong, Aaro Hellaakoski.
A monument to the Finnish poet Lauri Viita is located near the highest point of the ridge and there is a famous landmark in the area called the Shot tower (Pispalan haulitorni).
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.