A trip to H├дmeenlinna castle

Went to Hameenlinna, Finland on May 5, 2008

This weekend I visited an old castle in a town of H├дmeenlinna, an hour ride on a train from Tampere. It is an absolutely gorgeous monument even though it is not well known. There are a few castles in Finland, for example in Turku and Savonlinna but the castle in H├дmeenlinna is of a greater significance because it is one of the three buildings in Finland available at these days that were built of stone in middle ages. Stone was a precious material, probably expensive and difficult to use, but there were reasons to invest in such construction on the site of what was to become H├дmellina.

Only one floor was built in the beginning which was in 13th century. Greystone was used for this purpose. Later on, additional floors were added using bricks. Shell technique was employed which idea is to build two rectangular walls nested in each other and fill in the space in between with stone junk. The castle became what it is now in 16th century. It has three floors and towers. There is a wall and a separate powder tower.

There are underground floors as well. In total, there are approximately 7 floors in the castle. I think this is a lot taking into account time when the castle was built. The castle was designed to being able to sustain continuous attacks. It has a deep well inside. The castle is not very big, though. The inner square of the shell was serving as a corridor between the different rooms of the castle. It is difficult to imagine a marketplace on that square.

The castle was rebuilt a number of times during its lifetime. For example, there are windows that are filed with bricks these days. The reason behind this is that the castle was used as a prison in 19th century. On the picture above there are traces of a staircase which was removed at one point. The history of the castle is so convoluted that a PhD thesis was written on this topic. Later on, the thesis was re-written to take into account most recent findings. I guess studying of its history continues now as well.

The castle was an attractive target during middle ages. Its location between Sweden and Russia implied that a lot of ways were going through the town. A number of lakes surround H├дmeenlinna which when flooded connect it with Helsinki. The floods also facilitate the protection of the castle. Novgorodians attacked the castles using pikes but they did not succeed. Later on, no firearms attacks were attempted which explains why the castle is so well preserved. There are lots of ornaments, arches inside the castle.

Overall, H├дmeenlinna castle is an absolute must-visit in Finland because of its historical significance and its convenient location on Helsinki-Tampere railway.