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A Visit to The Old Church is a Journey into the Middle Ages

Was life in the middle ages as dark as alleged? Or is it also about romance, spirituality and a touch of mysticism? A journey to Häme will allow you to sense past life in the middle ages by attending medieval festivals and visiting old churches and hillforts. For visitors from abroad, visiting Häme is a must on your to do list in Finland, perhaps on a day trip from Helsinki, for example.

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The red brick castle of Häme was built in the Middle Ages.

If you have travelled abroad, you must also have visited a local church. But when was the last time you visited the churches in your area?

You do not always have to travel far to get to know the past. But if you do have plenty of time to travel further, we have enough historical sites in the whole of the Häme region for each summer’s day.

The most famous attraction in the Häme region is certainly Häme Castle on the shore of Lake Vanajavesi. The castle is home to plenty of history as its construction began after the crusade of Birger jarl in the late 13th century. The first written record of Häme Castle dates back to 1308.

Handsome towers and cobbled courtyards take you back to the centuries-old atmosphere.  You can imagine what life was like inside these rugged walls centuries ago as you walk down the narrow corridors of the castle and peek into the jail cell.

Medieval Festival

Carnivals typical of the middle ages, can be enjoyed at the Häme Medieval Festival in August.

The event, which takes place around Häme Castle, offers the opportunity to see artisans, nobles, peasants, smiths, Vikings, castle maids and knights. Some have seen witches among them as well.

The family-friendly event also features a petting farm, strange magicians, caramel (toffee) apples and funny singing performances. Those interested also can try horseback riding on a tethered tournament pony.

Medieval festivals also feature the clang of armour and swords as soldiers go head-to-head competing in horse tournaments and buhurt (medieval combat sport). Another event held in the castle, Vanaja Tournament, is the largest medieval combat sport tournament organised in Finland.

Past life can also be explored in Tammela, where a 17th century Hakkapeliitta Market is held every summer.

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At medieval festivals, knights compete in fierce horse tournaments. Photo: Markus Perko, Studio Monsteriluola

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The castle park is filled with tents of artisans, food vendors and medieval folk during the festivals. Photo: Markus Perko, Studio Monsteriluola

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At Tammela’s Hakkapeliitta event you will discover the 17th century atmosphere.

The Enchanting Nature of Hillforts

Before the construction of Häme Castle began, life in the region was concentrated in smaller villages where the inhabitants were protected from invaders by hillforts. Hillforts are abundant in southern Finland, but especially around Hämeenlinna.

The most rugged of these is the Hakoinen Linnavuori hillfort in Janakkala. The rocky hillfort is raised 60 meters higher than the surrounding landscape and was a good spot from which to watch the enemy approach.

Today, the hillforts serve as an important sanctuary for a variety of cultural plants and animals. You can find rare plants such as dark mullein, field garlic and tower rockcress at the Hakoinen Linnavuori hillfort.

Linnavuori hillfort with its scenic views is a popular destination for excursions and a perfect spot for a summer picnic.

Looking in the right direction you can also see a medieval stone church from the Hakoinen Linnavuori forthill.

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The Hakoinen hillfort was called Häme Castle before the actual Häme Castle was built.

Most Beautiful Churches

While looking at the scenery from the Hakoinen Linnavuori hillfort, you also can see the grey stone church of Saint Lawrence, completed in 1520. The church offers the traveller a relaxed and cool place to rest even on a hot summer’s day.

There are plenty of medieval stone churches in the Häme region and you also can visit them along the Hämeen Härkätie Road. However, if you want to get to know the oldest of the churches, you should head to the Holy Cross Church in Hattula.

The church, which represents full Gothicism, is first mentioned in documents in 1324 and has been a well-known pilgrimage site since the middle ages. This is no wonder, because the architecture of the church and the numerous paintings contained therein are yet to meet their match.

The Holy Cross Church has been described as one of the most beautiful sights in Finland, but travellers should remember that it is still a place where people also come to pray their respects to their deceased loved ones and to be mindful of that.

The old church is really worth checking out. Thick stonewalls tell surprising things and surprisingly, a lot of them.