SFHS Topmenu: Finlander | SFHS | Repository | Talko | DEE |

Pernå Community


Jump to: navigation, search

by Gunnar Damström

Pernå is the oldest community in the eastern part of Nyland Province, situated between Borgå to the west and Lovisa to the east. The distance from Helsingfors is 72 km, and via the new highway the trip takes about 45 minutes.

Swedes colonized Pernå in the 1200s after the second crusade. Pernå was incorporated as a tax precinct in the 1300s. In a letter dated September 22, 1352, Swedish king Magnus Eriksson lists the Crown parishes starting with Åland in the West and proceeding eastward. In the letter, he mentions Perno Sokn. This is the first time the community is identified in an official document. According to legend, Magnus Eriksson visited Borgå in 1346 and granted the community "town privileges." In 1350, a terrible plague known as the "Black Death" ravaged the Nordic countries, decimating the area population, including those living in Ingå. The Black Death ended the overpopulation problem in the Swedish provinces, and also the migration of colonists from Sweden to Finland.

Pernå is the cradle of the east Nyland culture. Some of the most beautiful Finnish mansions are located here on estates that have been in a single Swedish Finn fami-ly’s possession since the beginning of the 15th century. Among these are: Stor-Sarvlax, Norr-Sarvlax, Malmgård, Tervik, Forsby, Tjusterby, Näse, and Sjögård.

The Pernå medieval gray stone church is presumed to have been built in the mid1400s. It was one of the four stone churches built about the same time in eastern Nyland (Sibbo, Borgå, Pernå, and Pyttis). According to Markus Hiekkanen, an anonymous master builder built all four churches within two decades, according to the same plans. The Pernå church is dedicated to St. Mikael. A typical example of church architecture of the 13th, 14th and 15th century Sweden and Finland, the church has many artifacts including the coats of arms of noble families who lived in the community. Swedish Finn artist Lennart Segerstråle (1892-1975) created the beautiful glass paintings which adorn the church windows.

The Stor-Sarvlax estate was in the same family’s possession since the latter part of the 15th century until 1976. The last owner was Member of Parliament Ernst von Born and his wife Alix. They had no children and willed the estate to the Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland (the Swedish Literature Society of Finland), which has managed the estate since 1976. According to the will, relatives of Ernst von Born’s father shall live in the mansion, and the Board of the Swedish Literature Society shall select the current habitants.

Due to its location and size, Stor-Sarvlax has played a major role in many wars. In 1713, the army of Czar Peter the Great invaded Finland aiming to force King Karl XII to concede to the terms of a peace treaty recognizing St. Petersburg as Russia’s capital. First the Swedish army high command used Stor-Sarvlax mansion as their headquarters, and later the Russian military stripped the mansion of all inventories. During the next war, "Hattarnas Krig" 1741-1743, seven thousand Russian troops camped on the grounds of the estate causing substantial damage. During the civil war, February-April 1918, a platoon of red militia occupied the mansion, carefully guarding it from looters and burglars. Later a German expeditionary force, part of the Ostzee Division under Colonel van der Golz landed in Lovisa requisitioning all the horses from the Stor-Sarvlax stables. No compensation was ever received.

The Tjusterby estate is mentioned as early as the early 1400s from which time it was passed through heritage to the families Diekn, Fleming, and Wildeman (Lille). Gustaf II Adolf visited Tjusterby in May of 1614, hosted by admiral Arvid Tönnesson Wildeman. In 1751 the estate was sold to Lieutenant General R. Muhl. Since then, it has passed through inheritance and marriage from the De Geer family to the De la Chapelle (1857) and Antell (1872) families. The old mansion was burned to the ground during the Great Wrath, and only the foundation and cellars remain. The new mansion was built in 1866. The two-story brick, Normandy-style building with a tower is surrounded by a beautiful garden.

Mikael Agricola was born on the Torsby homestead in Pernå in about 1510. His first teacher was the parish priest. The priest realized Mikael’s great gifts and suggested sending him to the Latin School in Viborg. After eight years of study commencing at a mere 18 years of age, he was admitted to the circle closest to the Bishop of Finland, and he was ordained in the early 1530s.

There was no general discontent with the Catholic Church in Sweden and Finland before the Reformation. A person desiring to achieve higher positions within the Catholic Church had to study abroad. In 1536, Mikael Agricola was sent to study in Wittenberg, Germany where Martin Luther had started his reformation movement in 1517. Olaus Petri was the first cleric to preach Reformation in Sweden and later, Mikael Agricola brought Martin Luther’s teachings to Finland.

Gustaf Vasa was disinterested in matters of faith, however, he immediately saw the economical and political benefits the reformation offered. He had financed the liberation war against Christian II, taking huge loans in Lubeck and also granted the Hansa league similar privileges as the domestic tradesmen enjoyed. The state finances were in dire straits. In 1527 by Royal edict, the economical and political power of the Catholic Church was crushed and the King was declared the highest authority of the Reformist Church. A period of State-managed plundering of the wealth of the Catholic Church ensued. The King’s men collected silver candlesticks and communion chalices and melted them down into silver ingots. In Sweden the plunder led to discontent and uprising, while in Finland the reaction was more subdued.

Agricola, who had graduated from Wittenberg in 1539 an returned to Finland, was a sober minded and moderate person who realized the need to preserve most of the old and familiar, and thus, slowly acclimated the people to the new.

The reformation movement prescribed that parishioners be allowed to familiarize themselves with the sources of the Christian faith. Consequently the Bible had to be translated into the language of the land in all countries that assumed the Reformist Movement. During his time as headmaster of the Åbo Katedralskola, Mikael Agricola did monumental work preparing the first ever texts written in the Finnish language. In 1542, he published a Finnish Language ABC book and a number of other scripts, mostly translations. The most important was the New Testament in Finnish. Agricola’s task was formidable. He not only laid the foundation of the Finnish literature; he also had to create a Finnish written language as none had existed previously.

During the summer of 2002 an amateur ensemble performed "Fiddler on the Roof."
Degerby was separated from Pernå in 1745 and received town privileges under the name, "Lovisa." In 1791, Liljendal Parish was separated from Pernå. Today the total land area of Pernå is 418 km, including 7,500 hectares of cultivated fields and 26,723 hectares of forest area. The population is 3,804 (1998) of which 66% declare Swedish as their mother tongue.

The Pernå community makes a great effort of providing its citizens’ social capital. Fourteen communitysponsored clubs and associations cater to different needs and segments of the population. Östra Nylands Ungdomsförbund (East Nyland Youth Association) manages an outdoor venue called "Lurens," featuring a revolving grandstand.

Back | To the beginning | till början | alkuun | Finlander

Personal tools
blog comments powered by Disqus