Människa och miljö i medeltida Åbo


  • Marko Lamberg


The way pre-modern men and women spoke of locations within urban space casts light upon their relationship with other human beings as well as with physical nature surrounding them. This study focuses on the late medieval town of Turku (known as Åbo in Swedish) in Finland. In total, 115 genuine location descriptions can be found in the source material that deals with Turku in the period between 1355 and 1509. These documents refer to 289 spatial landmarks, including buildings, streets, institutions, humans as well as elements of physical space. The majority of the location descriptions can be found in documents written by professional scribes or religious clerks. However, these descriptions display considerable variation in terms of the choice of landmark and thus it is likely that they reflect the contemporaries’ actual parlance that, in all likelihood was not entirely accurately.

The location descriptions analysed in this study contain between 1 and 19 landmarks, with the average being 2.5 landmarks per description. Approximately 15% of the landmarks formed elements of the natural space, especially the river and a smaller stream that runs through the city. Approximately 22% of the landmarks consist of elements of man-made space, such as streets, buildings and the marketplace. Approximately 29% of the landmarks consist of references to humans. These individuals were current residents, previous owners of the properties in question or owners of neighbouring houses. The relatively imprecise mention of Turku is the most popular single landmark (17% of all landmarks). The rest of the landmarks represent several different categories, from toponyms to the measures of the spatial unit in question. References to other humans seem to have been relatively important, whereas the role of religious institutions and buildings, as well as the role of all public buildings, seem to have been surprisingly modest. Perhaps these structures in the spatial parlance imply an understanding of a medieval urban community as mainly being a human network with a collective memory.

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