Olaf’s Castle: Europe’s northernmost medieval castle

Europe’s northernmost medieval castle in the heart of Finland’s lakeside area, has seen rulers both from the East and the West.

In Savonlinna, approximately 3 hour drive away from Helsinki towards the eastern border, is an medieval castle Olavinlinna, which translates to Olaf’s Castle. It’s build by a Danish nobleman in 1475 to protect the Kingdom of Sweden’s eastern border, against Novgorod (Russia). During the Great Nordic War (1700-1721) Russia conquered areas in Southern Finland but the castle was only captured later in the Russo-Swedish War in 1742.

The castle has never been conquered by force, but is has surrendered twice

Olavinlinna, Olaf's Castle, is the Northernmost medieval stone castle.
Northernmost medieval stone castle in Europe

Savonlinna is a charming little city surrounded by lakes and Olaf’s Castle sits on a small island right in the center. It is very easy to reach by foot and the entrance fee includes a tour (finnish, english, russian). With the tour you can access areas in the castle which are otherwise closed.

The castle hosts annually since 1912 a famous opera festival, Savonlinnan Oopperajuhlat. The place gives the festival a very unique ambience.

The legend of the Black Ram

A story of how a black ram saved the castle.

The castle was preparing for feasts in honour of Saint Olaf and the ram was on the menu. It was a stormy night and the Russians were on siege, surrounding the castle. A lightning hit the castle walls firing up the tar which was placed there for defend. This scared the wandering black ram which jumped on its back feet terrified.

On the other side of the river, the Russians were even more terrified by the sight. They saw a beast with horns raging on the castle ramparts breathing fire, while the thunder and lighting shook the sky. In panic they run to their boats trying to escape, many drowning to the water while boats turned over. And this is how, the black ram saved the castle.

• Savonlinna, Finland

4 thoughts on “Olaf’s Castle: Europe’s northernmost medieval castle

  1. The Ram story was a good peace of history. It’s nearly as fascinating as the story of The Red Bull, which saved the Salzburg Castle in Austria.


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