The Fortress of Lappeenranta – at the Gate between East and West
The Fortress of Lappeenranta is a unique place in South-Eastern Finland. Inhabited and full of life even today, it once formed part of a defence system that also included the fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki and the fortress of Hamina.
Although different in size, all three of these fortresses are of a similar nature and share the same passion for development. While seeking to protect and preserve these areas through careful land use planning, they also aim to increase services and levels of activity around the year.
The Fortress of Lappeenranta was born and built squeezed between east and west. At first, the town of Lappeenranta developed in the shelter and safe vicinity of the Fortress, gradually expanding to the surrounding countryside known as the former parish of Lappee. The Fortress became the 'Old Town', which has nevertheless remained inhabited and full of life.
For centuries, Sweden-Finland and Russia fought against each other. The Fortress of Lappeenranta was constructed as a border fortress, forming part of the chain of fortresses between Finland and North-Western Russia. Over the centuries, the Fortress was alternately held by the Swedes and Russians.
Today, the Fortress of Lappeenranta is a valuable component of Finnish, Russian and Swedish cultural heritage and forms part of the Castles and Fortifications chain of cultural destinations.
Situated on a headland projecting into Lake Saimaa, the Lappeenranta Fortress was modeled on the European ideal of a fortress city, built to a square plan and protected by bastions. The landscape is completed by the surrounding water areas of Pallonlahti and Kaupunginlahti, and their adjacent, well-kept park areas. Furthermore, Rakuunamäki, a former garrison area mainly preserved in its original form, forms an essential part of the whole, due to its history and location next to the Fortress.
After the treaty of Nystad in 1721, Lappeenranta became the easternmost town of Sweden, and the fortification works were initiated. Following the Treaty of Åbo in 1743, the town remained on the Russian side of the border and Russians continued the fortification works. The present Fortress structures, renovated by Finland's National Board of Antiquities, are mainly based on the fortifications built at the end of the 18th century.
The Old Town – an Active Part of Today's Lappeenranta
The National Board of Antiquities of Finland has been conducting extensive renovations in the Fortress of Lappeenranta since the 1980s. During this work, fortification equipment mainly constructed in the last quarter of the 18th century was restored to its original shape.
Today, the Fortress of Lappeenranta, or the old town, is an active part of the town of Lappeenranta.
The oldest buildings, such as the Orthodox Church and the Former Commandant's House, date from the 1770s, the wooden buildings from the 19th century and the brick-built military garrisons from the early 20th century.
The main street, Kristiinankatu, was named after the Swedish queen, Christina, during whose reign, in 1649, a town called Lapwestrandh, or Lappeenranta, was founded on the fortress hill. The Fortress area's old building stock is protected by building preservation law. The latest addition to the area is a building for YLE, Finland's National Broadcasting Company, completed in 1972.
The town of Lappeenranta owns the entire terrain of the Fortress area, excluding the lots of the Orthodox Church and the parsonage. Similarly, the town and a town-owned housing company (Lappeenrannan Asuntopalvelut Oy) own all of the buildings, including the broadcasting company building, with the exception of the church and the parsonage. The housing company owns five residential buildings, comprising a total of 57 flats.