Situated on the Gulf of Botnia, Rauma is one of the oldest harbours in Finland. Built around a Franciscan monastery, where the mid-15th-century Holy Cross Church still stands, it is an outstanding example of an old Nordic city constructed in wood. Although ravaged by fire in the late 17th century, it has preserved its ancient vernacular architectural heritage.
© OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection
Rauma is an outstanding example of the traditional wooden architecture and urbanism in this part of Europe, and one of the most beautiful and extensive of all those that have survived to the present day.
The city, located on the Gulf of Bothnia, is one of the oldest harbours in Finland, mentioned first in 1441. It is built around a Franciscan monastery where the mid-15th-century Holy Cross Church still stands. This is the former monastery church of a Franciscan friary, which was built in the mid-14th century. There are medieval wall and vault paintings in the choir of the two-aisle stone church. The church nowadays serves as the town and rural parish church of Rauma.
The city, which was constructed in wood, was ravaged by fire in the late 17th century and a new city was built. Despite some changes made in the 19th century, Rauma has preserved its ancient appearance as the modern city has grown up outside the original core.
Apart from the old Franciscan church and the ruins of the 15th-century Holy Trinity church, the only monument in the old city is the City Hall, built in the 18th century. However, the old city of Rauma's great wealth is its vernacular architectural heritage (houses, workshops and shops). The majority of the buildings in the old city have been sensitively restored as part of a comprehensive development plan.
Old Rauma is the largest unified historical wooden town in the Nordic countries. It covers an area of 28 ha and contains 600 buildings, most of which are privately owned. The lively business area is concentrated around the market square. In addition to dwelling houses there are different kinds of outbuildings, old animal sheds and granaries. The plots are bordered by gates and fences (plank walls).
The appearance of the buildings has formed gradually during several phases of building and renovation, over the past centuries. Characteristics from the 1700s still remain in some buildings, whereas others have the appearance of the 1820s and 1830s. The majority of the buildings, however, received their current neo-Renaissance exterior during the active period of renovation in the 1890s.
Kirsti is a typical two-room Old Rauma house from the 18th century furnished as a seaman's home from the turn of the last century. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC