Vyborg Castle

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Vyborg Castle
Выборгский замок
Viipurin linna
Viborgs fästning
Vyborg 06-2012 Castle 06.jpg
View of the Vyborg Castle.
General information
Type Medieval castle
Location Vyborg, Leningrad Oblast, Russia
Coordinates 60°42′57″N 28°43′45″E / 60.71583°N 28.72917°E / 60.71583; 28.72917Coordinates: 60°42′57″N 28°43′45″E / 60.71583°N 28.72917°E / 60.71583; 28.72917
Completed 1290s

Vyborg Castle (Russian: Выборгский замок, Finnish: Viipurin linna, Swedish: Viborgs fästning) is a Swedish-built medieval fortress around which the town of Viborg (today in Russia) evolved. Currently it serves as a museum.

General[edit]

Vyborg Castle was one of the three major castles of Finland. It was built as the easternmost outpost of the medieval Kingdom of Sweden: it is located on the Karelian Isthmus, on a little islet in the innermost corner of the Gulf of Finland, in a tight strait which connects Suomenvedenpohja to Bay of Viipuri. It was originally constructed in the 1290s.

The town was originally located inside the outer fortifications of the castle, at the fortress island, but it had to be moved to its present location out of the island because of lack of space.

Medieval history[edit]

Construction of the fortress started in 1293 by orders of Torkel Knutsson, Lord High Constable of Sweden, who made in the 1290s a supposed crusade against Karelia, the Third Finnish Crusade, which actually was aimed against the Russians of Novgorod Republic. Knutsson chose the location of the new fortress to control the Bay of Vyborg, which was bordered by trading sites long used by the local population. From the bay, a navigable river passage goes inland, ultimately connecting the place with several districts, lakes, and, indirectly by portage, with rivers flowing into Lake Ladoga.

The three high-mediaeval Finnish "castle fiefs" were ruled until the 1360s from the castles of Åbo (today:Turku in Finnish), Tavastehus (today Hämeenlinna in Finnish), and Viborg (today: Vyborg in Russian and Viipuri in Finnish).

In 1364, Albert III of Mecklenburg was proclaimed king of Sweden, and in accordance with the German model he began to divide the castle fiefs, which were immense in Finland, into smaller provinces. In some instances, these new, smaller provinces were given separate bailiffs' residences which have since disappeared; this was the case with the Linnavuori castle mound in Porvoo and the castle of Korsholm in Ostrobothnia, near the today city of Vaasa which was founded later. Only earthworks remain at these sites; but in two places, still-extant though now ruined stone strongholds were built: Raseborg Castle, in western Uusimaa (west of Helsinki), and Kastelholm Castle, in the Åland (Ahvenanmaa) Islands.

The castle became the stronghold of the Swedish realm in Karelian regions. Throughout the centuries, it was the first defence of the kingdom against Russians. Its military and strategic status was in the late Middle Ages only second to the fortified capital Stockholm.

Location of Vyborg Castle
City locator 23.svg
Vyborg

The castle and the large surrounding fief became a virtually autonomous principality. Its governors were usually enfeoffed with the incomes of the county. The fief of Viborg became known as a margraviate. Its governors were generally from the most powerful families of the kingdom. They enjoyed large administrative powers, at a significant distance from the capital. Those realities made them practically independent rulers. Usually, the castle of Olofsborg Olavinlinna (built in 1470s) was subjugated to Viborg.

Prominent men who held Viborg as their fief included Bo Jonsson (Grip), Christer Nilsson Vasa (1417–42), Karl Knutsson Bonde (1442–48, the future king), Eric Axelsson Tott (1457–81), Knut Posse (1495–97), Sten Sture the Elder (1497–99, between his regencies), Eric Bielke, and Count John of Hoya. Particularly in the 1440s and the late 15th century, the fortresses were further enlarged.

The first mention of firearms in Finland relates to Viborg castle, in 1429. During the Middle Ages, the Russians repeatedly besieged the castle: most famously, in 1495, during the Russo-Swedish War (1495–97), while Knut Posse was governor of the castle. The situation of the defenders looked hopeless, but they were saved by the Viborg blast on 30 November 1495, a mysterious explosion which scared the Russians away because they believed that they had seen a Saint Andrew's cross in the sky. Viborg Castle was also one of the most important castles of Finland.

Modern history[edit]

In the 16th century, much was renovated and additions made. In the 17th century, the castle was allowed to decay, as Russian danger was decreased and the border was much more eastwards.

Viborg was taken by the Russians in 1710 and renamed Vyborg, but passed back to Finnish hands in 1812 when all of Old Finland was attached to the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. The castle owes its present appearance to extensive restorations undertaken in the 1890s. The military of the Russian Empire used the castle until 1918 for housing administration.

Viipuri belonged to the independent Republic of Finland between 1917–40 and again 1941–44. As a result of border changes in World War II it was annexed by The Soviet Union in 1944.

Architecture[edit]

The main castle, located in the eastern part of the islet on its highest hill, has an irregular four-cornered layout, with the immense tower of St. Olav (Pyhän Olavin torni in Finnish) as its biggest section. It is 3–4 stories tall, varying in places. Outer defensive works surround the main castle, following the islet's coastlines.

As of January 2013, images of the castle and grounds could be viewed using Google Street View.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Medieval castles of Finland, by Dr Carl Jacob Gardberg, state archaeologist

External links[edit]