Naantali has many reasons to smile. The sunniest town in Finland has often had to push through hard times and succeed in developing new sources of income. One of these sources has been the Naantali sun. Its rays warmed the town’s wallets and stoked up its tax revenue.
Naantali’s economy had suffered a long slump after the convent shut down. The sock trade brought in badly needed income and helped the town survive its trade restrictions, although the inhabitants of Turku had suggested to the Crown that Naantali’s town privileges be removed and Naantali burghers relocate to Turku.
In the 1750s a toll house and tollgate were built for so-called ‘little tolls’, and a wooden sun was hung on the gate. Later it was replaced with a bright, shimmering sun made of hammered copper. Orders were issued to polish the copper plate so thoroughly that is ‘shone like the Naantali sun’ so no one could claim that they did not know where the toll was collected.
A tollgate to the sun meant a steady income for the town and signalled the beginning of better times. The stories we have tell us that the sun also brought other benefits to the town. It was customary at this time to only collect a toll for trading done during the day. In Naantali, the idea was born that the sun shone around the clock on the toll house, so business done after dark did not evade taxation. And this certainly brightened up the life of the town.
Although the ‘Naantali sun’ became the town’s calling card and the stock phrase was known far and wide, Naantali went on to achieve another financial bloom in the spa industry. But that’s another story…