Part 1. Port operations in Naantali back the Middles Ages

Compiled by Anne Pentti

The port has always been an integral element of Naantali. Already in late Middle Ages Naantali had lively trade relations with Baltic Sea towns.

The original port of Naantali was located next to the convent church, on the south side bay, where the current guest marina is now. It was an important site for fairs. There were shops of burghers on the shores. As early as the 16th century the traders of Naantali exported pelts and hides. The burghers of Naantali were not entitled to carry our duty-free foreign trade, so exported and imported goods had to be transported to Turku, and customs duty was payable on both exports and imports. The inhabitants of Naantali had to sell their products at a smaller profit compared to the inhabitants of Turku, because the customs duty was a significant item in the prices. Goods were shipped e.g. to Danzig, or Gdansk. Export articles included horses, hides of goats, calves, bulls and sheep, squirrel furs, and butter. Imports comprised of salt, hops, English and Dutch fabrics, headwear, needles, and flour. Some of the imported goods were for use by the convent. History records mention at least a shipper named Sipi Kaukoi who carried goods to and from Naantali in the 1550s.

The convent was important for the financial prosperity of the city, but discontinued its operations in the late 1500s, when the last of the nuns moved to the heavenly church choir. In 1628, the convent church and the city of Naantali burned down. The financial life of the city dived to its low point. The export and import business faded and, consequently, so did the port. Only the sock knitting skills learned from the nuns seemed to generate income to the inhabitants. At best, as much as 25,000 pairs of socks were knitted per year. They were taken to be sold in Turku, Stockholm, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg.

In the parliamentary session of 1723 it was proposed that the trading right of Naantali be removed and the burghers of the city be transferred to Turku. The Royal Inspector, however, considered Naantali a better location for a port than Turku. Thus Naantali and its inhabitants gained trust in their future.