Sibbesborg - a historic sight that requires imagination


The Sibbesborg fortified hill on the western bank of the river Sipoonjoki (Sibbo å) was originally right above the river. According to popular tradition, the fortress was erected by a Viking by the name of Sibbe, short of Sighbiorn, who purportedly also gave his name to the river and the whole borough of Sipoo (Sibbo).


The fortress is younger than the Viking Age, however, and may have been part of King Albrecht’s network of administrative castles. Albrecht reigned in Sweden in 1364-1389, back when the Swedish king was elected by noblemen. Albrecht was hereditary Duke of Mecklenburg and a nephew to the former King Magnus Eriksson of Sweden. Many Swedish noblemen were not happy with Albrecht’s reign and turned to Margaret of Denmark for help to get rid of him.


Margaret, daughter of King Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark, was married to Haakon who was King of Norway and Sweden until Albrecht got elected. When Valdemar passed away, the Danish crown passed to Margaret’s son Olav who soon also inherited the crown of Norway. Olav being just a child, Margaret was the regent for the two countries. When Olav died Margaret adopted her nephew Boguslav, who was re-named Erik, and continued to reign on his behalf. So it was Margaret who sent Danish troops to Sweden in 1389 and defeated Albrecht.

In 1397, the 15-year-old Erik was crowned king of Denmark, Sweden and Norway in the cathedral of Kalmar in Sweden. This marked the start of the Kalmar Union, the Scandinavian counterpart to the Hanseatic League, where Margaret held the reins until her death.


Looking at Sibbesborg today it requires a bit of imagination to connect it to the 14th century power struggle in Northern Europe. Sibbesborg can be reached through a short driveway from Uusi Porvoontie, between Massbyntie/Joensuun raitti and the river. The driweway is not much more than a path but there is space to turn around a car at the end, as well as an information board.


The fortress was surrounded by a moat and wooden palisade on the north side while the southern tip of the rocky promontory was protected by a palisade built in the river. There was also a small castle built of stone and brick of which only the foundations remain buried underground. Even the river has receded so you can only gat a glimpse of it behind the trees.


The flanks of the Sipoo river were inhabited by settlers from Sweden in the 13th and 14th centuries. Some Finns from Häme (Tavastland) were settled there already and more settlers came from Estonia. The borough of Sipoo, first mentioned in written sources in 1352, was a waypoint on the main road from Turku (Åbo) to Viipuri (Viborg).


The old church of Sipoo (Brobölentie 68, Sipoo) was built around 1550 and dedicated to Saint Sigfrid. The wall paintings made with falu red (punamulta) and carbon black (kimrööki) date back to late 15th century.



The pulpit decorated with painted wood carvings dates back to the 17th century.



The stock was used to publicly humiliate those who had offended against moral rules, as was the two-level black bench in the nave on which the offender was required to sit or stand through the service.



Emblems of local dignitaries were also carved from wood.



The bell tower built in 1811 replaced a wooden one. The neo-Gothic church (Kuninkaantie 19, Sipoo) in the background was built in 1885 to accommodate the growing number of parishioners. The population in Sipoo grew from some 1700 in the 17th century to about 5000 in the 19th century.


The Östersundom church (Kappelintie 65, Helsinki) became the oldest church in Helsinki when western parts of Sipoo were annexed to Helsinki in 2009. Östersundom (Itäsalmi) was among the oldest villages in Sipoo. The village chapel built in the late 17th century was damaged beyond repair in the Great Northern War. A new church was built in 1754. The current exterior dates back to a renovation done in 1895.



Sipoonkorpi national park is another sight in the area. The shortest hiking trail of 1,4 km (curiously called "Ponun Perinnepostia") is suitable even for an urban dweller.