It’s been almost a year that I started this blog, but I still haven’t written about Turku Castle, turun linna in Finnish. So here it is.
There are multiple reasons for writing about Turku castle. The first is simply how emblematic of Turku it is. Together with Turku cathedral, the castle is on of the trademarks of Turku. There are other reasons to write about it though, its rich history being one.
I will mention before going any further that the castle is absolutely worth visiting in person. Pictures and words can’t really give a proper idea of how it feels to explore the inside of this impressive construction.
If you are interested to visit, the castle is open from 10 to 18 everyday except Monday.
An interesting history
Back when Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom, Turku’s status and location meant that it was a key location. Strategically located at the entrance of the Aura river, the emplacement of the castle was not chosen at random. Interestingly enough, the castle was then on an island. Around 1280, when the construction started, the plans were also much smaller then what you can see now.
In days when authority came directly from military might, a castle was an excellent way of controlling the surrounding lands. The castle was thus used both as a fortress and as an administrative center.
Through its long existence, the castle has gone through numerous modifications and expansions. It has also had its fair share of fires and sieges, also resulting in changes to the structure. The best way to appreciate this can be found nowadays in the castle, where a room holds a series of small scale models illustrating the evolution of the castle grounds and its surroundings.
Closer to us, Turku castle was severely damaged during the war with Russia. Its reconstruction was completed only in 1987, and it has been a museum since 1993. Worth mentioning is the fact that Turun Linna is the biggest remaining medieval building in Finland.
Interestingly, Turku castle hosted both future and former members of the Swedish royalty during the renaissance period. Some traces remain even to this day. Karin Månsdotter, then Queen of Sweden was taken to Turku castle under house arrest. She was eventually freed and spent the remainder of her life in Finland. She is actually buried in Turku Cathedral.
The castle was also a prison for most the 19th century.
Not only a museum
Although it is absolutely worth a visit, Turku castle is not only a museum. Its charming chapel is sometimes used for weddings and religious services. The imposing hall is also used by the city of Turku for ceremonial events and can also hosts other events.
If you do visit the castle, be ready to be surprised. I personally found that even though it looks imposing from the outside, the castle is much bigger than expected from the inside. The winding paths and labyrinth-like corridors, typical of medieval castles, lengthen substantially the visit and make it easy to go back in time.