Imagined Medieval Turku

Besides my main interest of study (religious conflict and reform in the late Middle Ages) I often ponder on medievalism, i.e. representations of the Middle Ages in contemporary or post-medieval historical contexts. A result of these reflections is an article about imagined early medieval Turku in the literary production of a popular albeit largely forgotten Finnish author of the 1920s and 30s. The article recently came out in an antology, published by Turun Historiallinen Yhdistys (Historical Association of Turku) and Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

The article itself is in Finnish, but English summaries of the articles are published on the homepage of TUCEMEMS publication series.

For those interested I also post the summary of my own article here:

“Historical fiction of Hilda Huntuvuori (1887-1968) and the imagined Early Medieval Turku”

The article treats early twentieth century Finnish medievalism in the historical fiction of Hilda Huntuvuori (1887–1968). Huntuvuori, publishing mostly in the 1920s and ‘30s, belonged to a generation of writers, artists and scholars who used early Finnish history – real and imagined – to promote a nationalist and militarist right-wing interpretation of past and present. Historical fiction was seen as an outstanding tool to educate the young in the new ideology of morals and ideals. As a teacher, writer and independent scholar, Huntuvuori used these roles to create authority and credibility for her fiction, and to occupy perhaps the only space possible for a woman of her days to act as an interpreter and commentator of history.

The particular case examined in this article is the imagined foundation of the medieval town of Turku. According to present knowledge, Turku was founded at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but no written sources have survived. Thus it provided an excellent opportunity for historical fiction to create an imagined past, fitting for her contemporary agenda.

In her series of historical novels, of which Lallin pojat (Sons of Lalli, 1926), Kokemäenmaan kuningas (King of Kokemäki, 1930) and Piispa Tuomas (Bishop Thomas, 1933) are treated in detail, Huntuvuori creates a fictional saga about Finnish families and prominent figures of early medieval history. In her world, Finland in  the twelfth and thirteenth century is ruled by local heroes and kings, unpolluted yet by foreign (Swedish) rule or influence. They are politically independent actors in history, parallel or supreme in power and wits to their neighbouring nations.

In this fictional history, Turku is founded through the initiative of local Finnish elders. The act of foundation is done in the last years of the twelfth century, thus predating by several decades the traditional founding date of 1229 (now generally discredited). The building of the Cathedral and the Dominican convent are also set further back in time. The establishment of the city and its central elements are thus situated in an imagined, Finnish-speaking and independent early medieval Golden Age, creating an object of identification for the readership of the young Finnish republic.

Reference: Välimäki, Reima. ”’Uusi Turku tupineen’. Hilda Huntuvuoren (1887–1968) historialliset romaanit ja kuva varhaiskeskiajan Turusta”. In Turun tuomiokirkon suojissa: pohjoinen hiippakuntakeskus keskiajan ja uuden ajan alun Euroopassa, ed. Marika Räsänen, Reima Välimäki & Marjo Kaartinen, 215–240. Historia mirabilis 8. Turku: Turun historiallinen yhdistys, 2012.



Ja suomeksi: Yllä on englanninkielinen tiivistelmä Turun tuomiokirkon suojissa – artikkelikokoelmassa ilmestyneestä, Hilda Huntuvuoren keskiaikakuvaa ja erityisesti keskiaikaisen Turun kuvausta käsittelevästä artikkelistani. Teosta on saatavilla Turun Historiallisen Yhdistyksen kautta.

One thought on “Imagined Medieval Turku

  1. Samankaltaisia havaintoja olen tehnyt Viipurista, josta on kirjoittanut mm. Lempi Jääskeläinen. Siihen liittyen vielä se, että mitään ei saisi kyseenalaistaa, koska onhan se sentään Viipuri, jossa kaikki oli mahdollista ja paremmin kuin missään muualla.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s