Seili Island has a sad history

In the Parainen municipality, on the southern side of the open water Airisto area and seven kilometres from Nauvo village, lies the beautiful island of Seili. The island has a fascinating but sad history.

The island was already under control of the Swedish crown during the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, there were three houses in the village of Seili, or Själö (Swe. seal island), which cultivated crown lands. In 1619, King Gustav II Adolf ordered the construction of a hospital for lepers on some remote island near Turku. The island chosen was Seili, and the houses were turned into a farmstead to take care of hospital’s food supplies.

Drawing of Seili Island from the 19th century. From Zacharias Topelius 1845 - 1852: Finland framställdt i teckningar, (Eng. Finland represented in illustrations). Published in Helsinki by A. W. Gröndahl & A. C. Öhman.

Leprosy was considered a  divine punishment and there was no medical treatment at that time. The island was the home of the incurably ill until the late 18th century, when leprosy began to abate. The last leprosy sufferer died on the island in 1784. However, even before this time, people with mental illness were being sent to the island.

Since the 1880s, the island has been a colony for women with mental health disorders. The mental asylum operated on the island for more than 150 years until the 1960s, after which the property was transferred to the Archipelago Research Institute of the University of Turku.

There are many types of buildings on the island

The island has buildings for a mental hospital and a farm, as well as a church with a cemetery and a rectory. The small wooden church on the island dates back to the 1730s. There is one special feature remaining from the time of the leprosy hospital, i.e. a handrail for leprosy patients, which segregates the western end of the church. The interior of the church is simple and unpainted. The fenced cemetery to the north of the church with its wood and cast iron crossings is atmospheric and touching.

The oldest of the stone hospital buildings is the so-called gate building dating from 1803. The main hospital building was completed in several stages during the 19th century. Other buildings include the farm's main building (the so-called "white house"), as well as the office of the hospital housekeeper and manager (known as “Fyyri”). Additional buildings included a wagon shed, granary, milking room, storehouse, coal shed, as well as stables and a farm worker’s hut.


The historical buildings and beautiful nature of the island attracts visitors

The island of Seili is a nationally significant built cultural environment. It is also part of the nationally prestigious Airisto-Seili landscape, which is one of the best-known scenic attractions on the southwest coast.

Historic buildings and beautiful nature make the island a wonderful destination for visitors. The island is believed to have been almost devoid of trees from the 17th century until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the southern part of the island is lush with broad-leaved trees, the centre is open traditional landscape, while the northern area is composed mainly of coniferous woods.

Traditional cultural landscapes have been revived by mowing and reintroducing cattle to the island. The island is also known for its archaeological sites, such as the Iron Age burial mound in the south. Although it is free to visit the island, there is a small entrance fee to the museum church. During the summer season, guided tours are organised on the island daily.

The archaeological research report also tells about the rest of the island's history (in finnish).

Why and how is this site protected?

The National Board of Antiquities has defined the island as a nationally significant built cultural environment.

Read more about the protection from the Finnish Heritage Agency's webpage


With the exception of a short break during winter, there is a daily ferry service to the Seili from Nauvo. The sea trip from Nauvo village takes about 20 minutes. In summer, Seili Island is also accessible from Turku. In addition, the island can be reached using your own boat.

Osaa Seilin saaresta ja museokirkkoa hoitaa Metsähallitus. A portion of the island as well as the church museum is maintained by the Finnish Foresty Administration (Metsähallitus).


N: 6688825, E: 221247 (ETRS-TM35FIN)