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Helsinki's most iconic statue to get a rest and a facelift

The bronze statue, known as Havis Amanda, will be taken down after May Day for repairs to damage caused by decades of revelers climbing it during celebrations.

Havis Amandan patsaan suojaaminen jääkiekon MM-kisojen mitalijuhlaa varten.
Barriers being constructed to protect the Havis Amanda statue from revelers celebrating Finland's 2022 world ice hockey championship. Image: Terhi Liimu / Yle
Yle News

Perhaps the Finnish capital's best-known and best-loved work of art is the statue of a mermaid standing on seaweed as she rises from the water, with four fish spouting water at her feet, surrounded by four sea lions.

Located on the edge of Helsinki's main market square by the South Harbour, the Havis Amanda statue and the fountain in which she stands was designed by the artist Ville Vallgren and completed in 1908. In addition to its artistic value, it is significant in terms of cultural history and cityscape.

The City of Helsinki announced this week that the statue will be taken down after the May Day celebrations to repair wear, scratches and cracks.

Traditionally, university students kick off their First of May festivities by placing a white student cap on the statue. Nowadays, a lift is used in the capping ceremony. In the past students, and other onlookers, climbed up the statue, and although strictly forbidden, it has not been uncommon for members of the public to climb it during celebrations held at the site.

While Havis Amanda will cast her serene gaze over May Day crowds this year, her presence will be missed at the celebrations that are sure to be held at and around the Market Square if Finland reprises its 2022 World Ice Hockey Championship in late May.

While the danger that hockey fans may pose to the statute is not the main reason for the timing of renovations, it is one factor, Lasse Toivanen of Helsinki's Urban Environment Division told Yle.

Painstaking project

The area around the fountain will be fenced off after May Day. The female figure and the sea lions on the edge of the fountain will be removed in early May.

In addition to repairs to the bronze statuary, the granite fountain will be renovated, water supply and drainage updated.

"There is no idea what the foundations are like until they are opened up. We haven't found proper documentation, so the project is challenging," says Toivanen.

Excavations are to be carried out under the supervision of an archaeologist due to the possible discovery of older remains.

It is uncertain how long the repairs and renovations will take. Tentatively work is scheduled to last until August 2024. However, the discovery of any remains of archaeological significance could change the timetable.

The Havis Amanda statue group is a part of the art collection of the City of Helsinki, which is managed by the Helsinki Art Museum.

However, Helsinki's Urban Environment Division is responsible for technical maintenance, including the fountain's water systems.

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