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As benefits one's class

Finland became a Lutheran country in the 16th century. The Reformation also influenced folk art and crafts. New influences were no longer received through the Catholic church and its convents and monasteries but rather to an increasing degree via trade and secular society. The 16th century was a period of profound change, during which Iron Age traditions finally ended in many crafts. For example, domestic pottery probably ceased completely as large amounts of cheap wares were imported from the Rhineland in Germany. Household vessels and containers were mostly made of wood, and pewter and copper were used by the upper classes.

Drawing: Suomen käsityön museo / Tuula Ollikainen

Text and photos: Crafts – a journey in time -exhibition, if not mentioned otherwise.


Renaissance architecture came to Finland through the court of Duke Johan, governor of Finland from 1556 to1563 and building works at the Turku Castle, where German carpenters and decorators panelled the walls and roofs of the castle. Woven wall hanging were placed above the wainscoting of the walls and windows were glazed. Works at the castle involved a master mason, tower builders, masons, carpenters and engravers, painters, makers of tiled stoves, cutlery smiths, tapestry makers, a pearl embroiderer and a master oven-maker.

Photo: Kari Hakli


Most Finns, however, lived in chimneyless cabins, where the smoke and exhaust of the oven was led out through an opening in the wall. The roof was made of turf or birch bark held in place by poles or spars. The small openings for light in the walls were sometimes covered with translucent leather. The rural poor still lived in chimneyless cabins in the 19th century.

Drawing: Alfred Kolehmainen


In carpentry, the main invention was the dovetail joint, which replaced the medieval upright groove joint and the straight joint, which required strong iron mountings. The most important innovations of the century were the plane, the lathe, glue, panelled doors and moveable furniture.

Drawing: Suomen käsityön museo / Anne Saarikoski


The table was usually laid with wooden plates and vessels. Wood was the material for bowls, beakers, tankards, plates and dishes, although ceramics and metal were also used. During the 16th century pewter and copper tableware replaced wood dishes among the upper class.

Photo: Suomen käsityön museo / Martti Laaksovirta


The Rusko kousa tankard is an impressive drinking vessel. Made from the widened base part of a spruce this tankard for festive use bears the engrave date 1542. The kousa tankard presumably derives from drinking vessels decorated with branches, which were used in pagan fertility rites. A total of 24 vessels of this type are known from the Nordic countries, most of them being associated with the Bielke family of Nousiainen in Finland. During the 16th century one Per Kousomakare (kousa-maker) lived in the region.

Photo: Suomen kansallismuseon kokoelma


From the 16th century onwards Finland had a nobility dressed in silk and velvet, a clergy and burgher class wearing broadcloth, and the common people dressed in frieze. Renaissance innovations that remained in popular festive dress for centuries were the women’s skirt, the bodice and the röijy or short jacket, as well as the male waistcoat, röijy jacket, breeches and knee-high socks. During the 17th and 18th centuries this type of costume spread mostly into Western Finland, the Savo region and parts of Karelia.

Photo: Suomen käsityön museo / Simo Peteri


Finland’s oldest double cloth weaves täkänä date from the 16th century. This type of textile was introduced into the Nordic countries by the Catholic church in the early Middle Ages. Owing to their slow and difficult technique, these weaves did not become widespread among the common people. Shown here is a woollen täkänä weave with lion and griffin designs, which was used in Marttila Church.

Photo: Otavan kuva-arkisto / R. Bäckman


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