Go Back

Tuomas Heikkilä

Tuomas Mikael Heikkilä
Born January 26, 1972, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1996, Licentiate 1997, and PhD 2002 (general history), University of Helsinki
European Diploma in Medieval Studies 1997 (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana)

Docent in general history 2003–, University of Helsinki
Docent in general history and church history 2006–, University of Helsinki
Docent in Finnish history 2013–, University of Turku
Director, Finnish Institute in Rome (Villa Lante), Rome
University lecturer of general history and church history 2003, 2005–07, 2010–13, University of Helsinki
Principle investigator of the Studia Stemmatologica­ research network 2009–12
Principle investigator of the Kirjallinen kulttuuri keskiajan Suomessa (‘Literary culture in medieval Finland’) research project 2006–11
Visiting Research Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala 2010
Professor of general history 2004 and 2008–09, University of Helsinki
Commissioner 2001–07, Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation
Research fellow 2007, Academy of Finland
Senior research associate in European history 2004 and research associate 1999–2003, University of Helsinki
Researcher 1998–2001, Diplomatarium Fennicum, National Archives of Finland
Researcher of general history, 1997–98, University of Helsinki

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Research themes: monasteries in the High Middle Ages, the cult of saints in the medieval period, literary culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, computer-assisted stemmatology, digital humanities, the period from late Antiquity until the Renaissance.

Awards and special achievements:
Luminous Middle Ages Prize 2012, awarded by the Society for Medieval Studies in Finland
Head Marshal of the conferment ceremony of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Helsinki, 2010
Lauri Jäntti Foundation honorary award 2010
Winner of the Vuoden kristillinen kirja (‘Christian book of the year’) prize (together with Liisa Suvikumpu) 2009
Invited to reside in the University of Helsinki’s apartment Tiedemies-kunniakoti (‘Honorary scholarly home’) 2006
Finnish Science Book of the Year prize 2005
The Yrjö Koskinen medal 2006
Vuoden historiateos (annual prize for the best work of history) 2005
Finnish Academy of Science and Letters scholarship for an outstanding doctoral dissertation 2003
Doctor Primus 2003
Snellman Foundation prize for an outstanding master’s thesis 1997

Written by Tuomas Heikkilä (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Colourful Dark Ages

Researching the legend of St Henry enticed Tuomas Heikkilä to study Finland’s earliest literary culture also in greater breadth. Between 2007 and 2010, he led the research project Kirjallinen kulttuuri keskiajan Suomessa (‘Literary culture in medieval Finland’), under the auspices of which was produced the first detailed, over-arching picture of Finland’s oldest book and literary culture.

Contrary to common assumptions, remnants of medieval cultural have been preserved in Finland to a surprising extent and breadth. The Fragmenta membranea collection of the Finnish National Library is the planet’s second largest treasure trove of medieval parchment fragments. Because only a few dozen complete medieval books have been preserved in Finland, Dr Heikkilä’s research group primarily relied on fragments. With their help, new vistas opened up on Finland’s oldest literary culture. Previously, books played a far more central role, and books and writing had great social significance. Through the written word, the area that is now modern-day Finland was construed as part of Latin-speaking Europe and Western Christianity. The project also resulted in the cataloguing of a previously unknown section of the National Library’s fragment collection. Moreover, the whole Fragmenta membranea collection was digitised and placed on the Internet as an English-language research database. Through this, in one fell swoop, Finland became an exemplar for international fragment research.

The results of the research were published in the scholarly collection Kirjallinen kulttuuri keskiajan Suomessa (‘Literary culture in medieval Finland,’ (SKS 2010). Themes of wider appeal to the general public are presented in the online publication Kirjava keskiaika (‘The colourful Dark Ages’) and in the tome Piirtoja ja kirjaimia (‘Drawings and letters,’ SKS 2009).

© National library, Fragmenta membranea -database.


Go Back