Itella Posti Oy will publish a booklet of stamps with pictures of ancient Finnish castles on Monday 20 January. The Ancient Castles stamp booklet includes six first class stamps with pictures of Suomenlinna, Hame, Raseborg, Kastelholm, Olavinlinna and Turku castles. The booklet includes brief summaries of each castle's history in Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian.
The Ancient Castles stamp booklet is designed by one of Finland's most respected graphic designers, Erik Bruun. He is known to the general public for his designs for several past Finnish stamps, the final series of Finnish Markka banknotes and his popular nature and advertising posters.
Ancient castles are an especially personal subject for Erik Bruun, as he has lived in Suomenlinna, the sea fortress, for 43 years. "The cover of the stamp booklet is of Suomenlinna's stone walls and a firing embrasure, which I walk past almost every day."
Erik Bruun has depicted Suomenlinna in four previous stamps, which were published between 2000 and 2006. He has also produced a number of Suomenlinna-themed posters. For Vyborg-born Bruun another pleasant assignment was the Vyborg Castle 700-year stamp published in 1993.
Erik Bruun designed his first stamps in the mid-1980s, at about the same time as the Finnish Markka banknote reform. Altogether, he will have designed well over 50 postage stamps once the Ancient Castles stamp booklet appears. Many of the stamps designed by Bruun are inspired by nature, with birds especially close to his heart.
Castles are an important part of Finnish cultural heritage. In their time, the ancient castles of Finland were strategically important buildings for the country's defense and trade. As their strategic importance declined, the castles were taken over for other purposes, e.g. for use as prisons, and they began to fall into disrepair.
"The antiquarian value of the castles was understood in the late 1800s and plans for their restoration began. In the 1930s, decades of work began to restore them. "Today, the castles are amongst Finland's most important pieces of cultural heritage and most popular tourist destinations," says Juhani Kostet, Director General of Finland's National Board of Antiquities.
Mirror image of Hame Castle
Hame Castle appears as a mirror image on a stamp due to an error with the original image. "Erik Bruun made the stamp based on an old photograph that the National Board of Antiquities gave him, which had at some earlier stage become a mirror image of the original. We believe that the stamp will be of interest to buyers despite - or even perhaps because of - the mistake and it will sell very well," estimates TommiKantola, Product Manager from Itella Posti Oy.
A brief history of six ancient Finnish castles
The Ancient Castles stamp booklet presents the following six ancient Finnish castles, each of which has its own interesting history.
Construction of Viapori Castle was started in 1748 by A. Ehrensvard. The fortress surrendered to the Russians in 1808, and when Finland became independent, it was named Suomenlinna. In the early years of independence, it served as prison camp and closed military zone. The area started to be developed for tourism in the late 1950s, and now Suomenlinna, which lies directly in front of Helsinki, has become a popular tourist destination and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hame Castle was founded in the late 1200s and was converted into a residential castle in the 1700s. The castle served as a prison from 1837 to 1972. Restoration work began in 1953 and was completed in 1988. Today, the castle serves as a museum and hosts a variety of exhibitions and events.
Raseborg Castle was built in the 1370s in Snappertuna. The castle, which had been used to defend Swedish trade interests, was abandoned in the 1550s and it fell into decay. Restoration work began in the late 1800s and continued until the end of the 1980s. The castle is now open to the public during the summer.
Kastelholm was originally built to defend the Aland Islands in the late 1300s. The castle became the seat of the crown's fief-holders and bailiffs. Later, Kastelholm Castle was used as a royal hunting lodge, and later still as a prison. The castle lost its administrative significance the 1600s and is now a museum.
Construction work on Olavinlinna, the castle of St. Olaf, started in 1475. The castle's purpose was to combat Russian attacks and to maintain control of the Savo region for the Swedish Crown. During the 1700s, Olavinlinna Castle alternated between Swedish and Russian hands, which is evident in the varied architecture of the castle. Today, the castle is open to the public and is famous for the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
The construction of Turku Castle began in the 1280s at the mouth of the river Aura, as an administrative castle for the Swedish Crown. Later, it became John III's residential castle during his period as Duke, the Governor General's official residence and later on a prison. Today, Turku Castle is a monument building, museum and hosts valuable celebrations.