According to mathgeneral, Rauma was one of the most important cities and trading centers in Finland in the Middle Ages and early modern times. The old town of the third oldest city in the country has richly decorated wooden facades from the 18th and 19th centuries and has been able to preserve its street network in the original.
City of Rauma: facts
|City of Rauma
|The center of Old Rauma with its approximately 600 buildings are Kauppakatu and Kuninkaankatu streets; third oldest town in Finland with a medieval town plan; Uniform, low wooden buildings in the approximately 28 hectare old town, including with Franciscan monastery, Holy Cross Church and old town hall
|Rauma, northwest of Turku
|an outstanding example of a Scandinavian town built in wood and one of the oldest ports in Finland
City of Rauma: history
|Settlement of Franciscan monks
|Construction of the stone (!) Holy Cross Church
|Wall paintings in the choir of the Holy Cross Church
|Dissolution of the Franciscan monastery
|Based on an edict by King Gustav Wasa, the citizens were relocated to Helsinki
|Erection of a »customs fence« around the city
|Construction of the old town hall
|Consecration of the organ in the Holy Cross Church
|Demolition of the »customs fence«
|Issuing a conservation ordinance
A fairytale Nordic dollhouse
On the Gulf of Bothnia you can find not only the third oldest Finnish city and an enchanting “doll’s room”, which has covered the patina of history but did not let it go moldy, but also urban modernity and the largest Finnish port. Built-in wood stands in clear contrast to the new world of steel, concrete and glass; just a few decades ago, the old town of Rauma hardly differed from other small Finnish towns.
Wood has always been the most important building material since time immemorial: wood for houses, wood for ships, wood for burning tar, for heating saunas. Only: The other towns have changed – Neu-Rauma has also been given a modern look – and it is one of the wonders in the eventful times of urban life that this enchanting, unique testimony to architectural history – a complete district in the old, traditional structure – remained.
Rauma would never have been created without wood. It was ideally located for a port city – and sailing ships were always made of wood, as were all the houses of the traders and sailors. They had already enjoyed town charter since the middle of the 15th century, which only experienced a dramatic collapse when Rauma’s residents were forcibly relocated to the newly founded Helsingfors, today’s Helsinki, on the orders of King Gustav Wasa.
For centuries, wood remained the most important export item, although it was not known as Rauma tar but “Stockholm tar”. It is thanks to a long-standing idiosyncratic attitude of the people from Rauma that they moved into the circle of the cities of the world heritage: When their city burned down at the end of the 17th century, they faithfully followed the original plan during the reconstruction; this is still valid today, even if most of the wooden houses are barely more than a hundred years old.
The ravages of time have gnawed the wooden quarters of many Finnish cities over the centuries. Business-minded building contractors saw this as their opportunity; they recommended the wrecking ball, the modern new building with shops, offices, and houses for high-income merchants and citizens who should fill the city purse with their taxes. Many city fathers were persuaded by such concepts and accepted the resentment of the citizens. Only in Rauma did an awareness of tradition prevail that was not satisfied with restoring a few houses or small ensembles. A decisive argument for the preservation of the city was that most of the wooden buildings were only built towards the end of the 19th century or had already been thoroughly renovated; very solid, often already two-story,
Only the city map is really ancient in the true sense of the word. The wooden buildings are comparatively »young«, but have been preserved as a historical ensemble that is not disfigured by modern or even postmodern buildings. The houses stand like annual rings – as was originally customary in the north – around the city center, the pulsating heart of which is the market square with the old town hall. The old town has been able to maintain its idyllic, original character, its flair with the winding alleys. This distinguishes Rauma from similarly old but modernized Finnish cities, but also from others in the north, such as the Norwegian city of Røros, whose houses are much older. Rauma is not only typical for traditional urban architecture.