The convent founded in 1443 in Naantali was a popular pilgrimage destination in the middle ages, which brought wealth to the town. The Reformation during the 16th century altered the position of the church and Naantali’s convent quickly lost its significance. The last nun at the convent died in the end of the 16th century and the pilgrimages stopped.
The Bridgettine nuns of the convent had however managed to teach the craft of sock knitting to the people of Naantali, especially the technique used to knit the heel of the sock, and Naantali socks came to be in great demand in the courts of Stockholm, Tallinn and St Petersburg.
The town elders wanted to use the situation to their greatest advantage, and so all the inhabitants of Naantali were ordered to knit socks for the mayors little boys and girls. When large hordes of knitters started to appear on every street corner, a decree was issued that allowed no more than six knitters to stand on any one street corner, so as not to obstruct the passage of carriages and other traffic. At the height of this industry, approx. 25,000 pairs of socks were knitted and knitters were sought after as teachers throughout Finland.
Naantali’s soft gold helped the town through a few difficult centuries until the Naantali sun rose above the town and created new sources of growth. But that’s another story…