Experience the history of Olavinlinna.

Olavinlinna was built into a scarcely populated area. However, the area was of military and geographic importance, since the borderline went through the area in accordance with the Peace Treaty of Pähkinäsaari (1323). First it was a borderline between Sweden and Novgorod, later between Sweden and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. When the Grand Duchy of Moscow tried to extend its power and started to threaten the Swedish border, a new fortification - Olavinlinna - was needed to strengthen the defence of Sweden's border in the east.

Olavinlinna was founded in 1475 by a Danish knight called Erik Axelsson Tott, who  at the time served as the governor of Vyborg Castle.  Building site for the castle was chosen from the point of view of defence: steep, rocky islet emerges from a strong stream at the meeting point of two waterways. It was difficult for the enemy to approach the castle and the waterways could be used to transport building material to the islet.

Before the building of the actual stone castle could be started, it was necessary to build a wooden fortification to protect the builders, who straight from the beginning had become the victims of Russians' attacks.

First a so-called main castle was built. It rose on the highest side of the islet, the western side. The main castle consisted of three towers with encircling wall between them. It took roughly ten years before the main castle could defend itself. Immediately after the main castle was finished the building of the so-called bailey was started. The bailey had two towers and the building work was finished at the end of the15th century. At that time the castle with five towers rising on an islet represented the most modern defence architecture with round towers and high encircling walls.

The castle's ability to defend itself was put to the test quite early. A war broke out in 1495 and the Russians made several attacks towards the castle. Also during the 16th and 17th century the castle was a subject of numerous attacks. The effects of the Great Northern War were seen in the castle, and in the summer of 1714 the first change in the ownership occurred, when the castle capitulated to the Russians after a fierce siege. There was some disagreement over who actually owned the castle. Thus in the Peace Treaty of Uusikaupunki in 1721 the castle was returned back to the Swedish. After many battles during the 18th century, the Peace Treaty of Turku in 1743 made Russia the owner of the castle. Russians took up extensive construction work in order to improve the castle's defence. Rectangular bastions are a proof of that period.

There was a garrison stationed in the castle up till 1847, although the castle lost its military importance in the Finnish War, where Finland became part of Russia (1809). When military activity came to an end, the castle served as a remand prison for a short time. After which the castle was deserted and started gradually getting reputation as a tourist sight and an attraction.

The thorough reparation of the castle became a burning issue during the1870's, right after two bad fires had raged in the castle. The function of the castle was also debated, and the state started looking after the castle, as an antiquity.

Olavinlinna quickly developed into a significant tourist attraction, and a popular location for festivities. In the summer of 1912 opera singer Aino Ackté organized the first out of the five opera festivals. These were the predecessors of the contemporary annual Savonlinna Opera Festival that started in 1967.

Restoration in the castle occurred in late 19th century as well as in the 20th century. However, the latest large-scale restoration began in 1961 and was finished in 1975, just in time for the castle's 500 -jubilee. After this only small annual repairs have been necessary. Today Olavinlinna is one of the most well known sights in Finland and many events are held inside its restored halls and rooms.


Webpages presenting Olavinlinna Castle done by the pupils of the University Practice School of Savonlinna.

3D Modelling of Olavinlinna Castle

The 3D modelling depicts three different stages of the castle's construction; the Middle Ages, the year 1730 and the year 1799. The modelling demonstrates how the look of the castle changed due to weaponry development and preparations for war.

The modelling also illustrates how both the Swedes and the Russians left their imprint on the castle. Old Swedish and Russian drawings as well as blueprints, studies and old pictures have been used as a source when creating the modellings. However, every stage also includes some interpretation by the makers of the modelling about how the castle looked.

The oldest part of the modelling depicts the Middle Ages. The Swedes started building the Olavinlinna Castle on their restless eastern border in 1475. The castle was a stronghold of 150 men-at-arms. The foundation of its defence was a novelty of the Late Middle Ages, round towers projecting from the castle wall. The towers made it possible to fire at a large range. The modelling of the Middle Ages features mostly interpretation by the makers as very few sources from that time still remain. Also most of the medieval features and parts of the castle no longer exist and can no longer be reliably traced back and modelled.

The modelling of the year 1730 depicts Olavinlinna Castle the way it was before the end of Swedish ownership in 1743. The damages to the castle from the Great Northern War were being repaired and one of the medieval towers had been taken down. Different wooden buildings and structures such as living quarters and working spaces had also been built in the castle yard as well as stake barriers at the waterfront and in front of the gates to strengthen the defences.

The last stage of the modelling illustrates the situation in 1799 when the biggest reconstruction work of the Russian era, the bastion lines; had been completed. The castle was rebuilt and extended in many ways. In the eastern part of the castle a new bailey named Suvorov with a water stream was built, the towers were raised and the main gate was moved to the new curtain wall. Furthermore, the wooden buildings from the Swedish era were replaced with new buildings made of stone.

Creators of the Modelling
National Board of Antiquities / Minna Väisänen, Johanna Nordman and Päivi Hakanpää
Vuorio & Torkkel Computer Graphics / Ale Torkkel

Modelling of Olavinlinna Castle