domenica 17 febbraio 2008

Medieval Castels in Finland

Medieval Castels in Finland
n Finnish history, the prehistoric era is generally considered to end and the Middle Ages to begin in the 1150s, when, according to a Swedish chronicle, King Erik of Sweden and English-born Bishop Henry undertook a crusade to the southwestern parts of Finland. The chronicle's claim that the Bishop 'baptized' the Finns has later been modified. Archaeological finds have shown that Christianity had reached the Finns as early as the eleventh century, and the main purpose of the crusade was thus to establish Swedish dominion in Finland and organize a bishopric there.

The first crusade was also part of much wider political and ecclesiastical perspective. Sweden was Roman-Catholic at the time. To the east of Finland lay the Novgorod republic, which was Greek-Orthodox. Finland was a country rich in natural resources in the middle and came to be seen as a desirable territory by both sides from about the twelfth century onwards. The Swedes arranged two more crusades, one in 1239, to Häme in central Finland, and another in 1293, to Karelia (Viborg) in the East. Meanwhile, the people of Novgorod made repeated raids into Finnish territory, burning the city of Turku in southwestern Finland as late as 1318. These conflicts did not end until 1323, with the peace treaty of Pähkinäsaari, which finally established that Finland was part of the kingdom of Sweden. The Swedes had to take up arms to defend the border numerous times during the Middle Ages and the 16th century, especially after the Muscovites took over Novgorod in the 1470s
Thus the Swedes consolidated their power east of the Åland sea through three crusades. After each crusade, a castle was built to serve both defensive and administrative purposes. Turku castle was built at the mouth of the Aura river in southwest Finland, by the city of Turku, the foremost town in Finland up to the beginning of the 19th century. Häme castle in Häme was built after the second crusade. The third crusade led to the building of Viborg castle, on an island in the Gulf of Finland off the coast of Karelia. These three castles became the centres of three provinces discernible as early as the Iron Age, called Finland, Häme and Karelia.

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