Fishing with Monks – Padise Abbey and the River Vantaanjoki from 1351 to 1429

Fishing with Monks – Padise Abbey and the River Vantaanjoki from 1351 to 1429

By Tapio Salminen

Colonists on the Shores of the Gulf of Finland: Medieval Settlement in the Coastal Regions of Estonia and Finland, edited by Marjo Poutanen (Vantaa City Museum Publications, 22. Vantaan Kaupunginmuseo, Lahti 2011)

Abstract: How did the Cistercian Abbey of Padise in Estonia first come into possession of fishing rights for salmon in the River Vantaanjoki in Finland, and what was the significance of these rights for the economy and everyday life of the monastery during the period of the abbey’s donation in 1351–1429? What impact did the monks and lay brethren have on the use of the river and the structure of settlement in its area, now in the dense suburban network of Vantaa and Helsinki?

Introduction: The medieval Diocese of Turku, roughly the same area as present-day Finland, essentially differs from other parts of the Baltic region once belonging to the medieval sphere of influence of the Catholic Church. Here, none of the monasteries of the old, pre 13th-century orders, such as the Benedictines, Carthusians, Cistercians or Premonstratensians had ever been established and, with the exception of the Cistercian Abbey of Padise in Estonia, they are not known to have had property or rights in Finland.

Although ecclesiastical culture and spiritual life in the medieval Diocese of Turku was by no means different to the rest of Europe, one of their most characteristic features, monasticism, was represented in its fully secluded form only by the Bridgettine convent of Naantali, founded in 1438. This double monastery of nuns and canons met all the requirements of the monasticism: property in land obtained through donations, monastic vows, the copying and production of religious texts, and a continuous life of prayer in seclusion. The convents of the Dominicans, who were active in Finland since the 13th century and the Franciscans, who came to Finland by the early 15th century at the latest, were popularly known as monasteries, but much of the activity of the friars occurred outside of their houses among the local population. Observant to their rules, Dominicans of Turku and Viipuri and Franciscans of Viipuri, Rauma and Kökar Island never accumulated significant endowments of landed property to sustain their houses.

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