Top Historic Sights in Visby, Sweden

Explore the historic highlights of Visby

St. Lawrence's Church Ruins

Saint Lawrence’s church (Sankt Lars) was built in the central parish around 1210-1220. In the same cemetery a German parish church, Holy Trinity (Drotten in Swedish), was built around 1240. The church was abandoned after the Reformation. Architecturally, Saint Lawrence has its models in Orthodox churches, and it has been wrongly suggested that it would have been a Russian church. It’s more reasonable to imagin ...
Founded: 1210-1220 | Location: Visby, Sweden

St. Catherine's Church Ruins

The constrcution of St. Catherine’s church was started in the 1250s and continued through the 14th century. It was actually never completed, and in 1540s it was partially collapsed during the worship. Today only ruins remain, but pillars are still very impressive.
Founded: 1250s | Location: Visby, Sweden

Gotland Museum

The fine Gotlands Fornsal Museum provides comprehensive coverage of Visby's past. Housed in an 18th century distillery and a medieval warehouse, it holds five storeys of exhibition halls covering eight thousand years of history, as well as a good courtyard café and bookshop. Among the most impressive sections are the Hall of Picture Stones, a collection of richly carved stones dating mostly from the 5th to 11th ce ...
Founded: 1875 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Visby Cathedral

Visby Cathedral (also known as St. Mary’s Church) is the only survived medieval church in Visby. It was originally built for German merchants and inaugurated in 1225. Around the year 1350 the church was enlarged and converted into a basilica. The two-storey magazine was also added then above the nave as a warehouse for merchants. There is not much left of the original interior. The font is made of local red marble ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Visby, Sweden

St. Clement Church Ruins

To the south of St Nicholas's Church, among houses, are the remains of the Romanesque church of St Clement, built in the middle of the 13th century. Excavations have brought to light the foundations of three earlier churches. The oldest, dating from the 12th century, was probably one of the first stone-built churches in Visby. To the right of the church can be seen an old weapon house, in which the men deposited their arm ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

St. Hans' & St. Peter's Church Ruins

St. Hans and St. Peter churches were built side by side during the 1200s. St. Peter was consecrated to the apostle Peter. St. Hans, which was the larger church, was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. It was where the Lutheran doctrine for the first time preached on the island. In 1527, however, Bishop Brask turned Lutherans out from the church. But as soon as the bishop sailed to Denmark, Lutherans worships were starte ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Holy Spirit Church Ruins

The Holy Spirit (Helgeand) Church, sometimes incorrectly mentioned as St. James, was built in the early 1200s. It was probably constructed as a chapel for the Danish Guild and donated by the Danish King Valdemar. In the mid-1200s the guild lost its importance and the church was sacrified as Holy Spirit Church and it also functioned as a sanctuary. The church is octagonal and built on two floors. Both floors have a common ...
Founded: ca. 1200 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Powder Tower

The so-called Powder Tower (Kruttornet) is the oldest monument in Visby. It was built in the 12th century to protect the harbour. There was initially no door in the tower, but only a small entrance in 10 meters high. Defenders used ladders to climb up to the entrance. Today 25 meter high tower is open to the public in summer season.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Visby City Wall

The City wall of Visby (Swedish: Visby ringmur) is an old medieval defensive wall surrounding the city. The building of ringwall was probably started in the 13th century. Around 1280 it was rebuilt to reach its current height, along with the addition of its characteristic towers (although some towers were not constructed until the 15th century) It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Visby. The war in 1288 betwe ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

St. Gertrud's Chapel Ruins

The chapel was built in 1460-1470s and sanctified to St. Gertrude of Nivelles (her picture is carved to the tympanum of chapel). There are also frescoes of Ivar Axelsson Tott and his wife Magdalena. The chapel was part of the St. Jacob’s monastery and destroyed by Lübeck army (as well as many other churches) in 1525.
Founded: 1460-1470s | Location: Visby, Sweden

St. Nicholas' Church Ruins

The church of St. Nicholas was originally part of the Dominican monastery built in the 1230s. It was destroyed by Lübeck army in 1525. The church has a beautiful rose window in the gable. In a summer season the St. Nicholas church ruins are a venue for musical “Petrus de Dacia”, who was the priory of monastery between 1283-1289.
Founded: 1230s | Location: Visby, Sweden

Solberga Abbey Ruins

Solberga Abbey was a Cistercian nunnery in operation from 1246 until at least 1469. It was located outside Visby on Gotland until 1404, and then in Visby. It was the only nunnery ot the island of Gotland. Solberga Abbey was likely a daughter convent of Vreta Abbey. On 12 August 1246, Bishop Laurentius of Linköping mentions that the first nuns had been sent to Gotland, were Solberga was the only nunnery on the isla ...
Founded: 1246 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Korsbetningen

Korsbetningen was a site of the battle between Danish King Valdemar Atterdag’s army and Gotlanders, fought on 27th July, 1361. Approximately 1800 peasants were slaughtered in the battle and buried to the field. There is a medieval, Gothic-style stone cross with Latin inscription: "AD 1361, third day after the Jacob’s day, fell Gotlanders into the hands of Danish in front of Visby gates. They are buried here. P ...
Founded: 1361 | Location: Visby, Sweden

St. George's Church Ruins

The church of St. George (S:t Göran) was originally part of the leprosy hospital in Visby. It was built in the 13th century to the site of older church dating from the 1100s. Due the risk of infections the hospital and church were located outside the city wall. He hospital was abandoned due the King’s order in 1542, but used until 1611.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Barlingbo Church

The current Barlingbo Church was erected between 1225-1250 but the foundation of an older church building has been found from the nave floor. The large rosette window in west wall is an unique detail. The interior is decorated with frescoes made in the 13th and 14th century. The font from the 1100s is also beautifully carved. The pulpit dates back to 1673 and sandstone-made altar screen to 1683.
Founded: 1225-1250 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Bro Church

The first church in Bro was built during the 12th century in Romanescue style. The next church was completed in 1236 and it represented the Gothic style. In the reconstruction around 1300 the nave was demolished and replaced with the present one. In the Middle Ages Bro church was a destination for pilgrimages, because very important relic, an “original” piece of Jesus Christ’s cross was kept there. The p ...
Founded: 1236 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Akebäck Church

Akebäck Church was inaugurated in 1149, but the current nave, choir and apse were built in the late 1100s. The strong tower was built in the 1200s. The font originates from the 1200s, wooden crucifix from 1400s, altar and pulpit from 1600s. The big chandelier was donated to the church in 1850.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Hogrän Church

Hogrän Church consists of a Romanesque tower and a Gothic nave and choir. The tower thus is the oldest part of the church, dating from circa 1200. Attached to it was originally an earlier stone church, also Romanesque in style and erected during the 12th century. During the 14th century, it was however replaced by the presently visible Gothic nave and choir. A few details from this earlier church, such as a few sculpted ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Källunge Church

Källunge church (Källunge kyrka) is a church in the island-bishopric of Visby on Gotland. The church is richly decorated with reliefs and frescoes. The frescoes are important evidence of the strong Byzantine influence on Swedish art of the 12th and 13th centuries. An early depiction of a nyckelharpa is found in a relief dating from circa 1350 on one of the gates of the church. The church gives its name to the K ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Hejdeby Church

Hejdeby Church was built in the 13th century, the choir and nave first (in late Romanesque style) and the tower later (showing early Gothic influences). The interior of the church is richly decorated with medieval frescos. These date from two periods: the oldest are from the 13th century and depict apostles, the crowning of Mary, and various saints. The other set of frescos date from the 15th century and depict scenes fro ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Stora Hästnäs

Stora Hästnäs is a medieval manor house. The best preserved building is a stone-made warehouse dating back to the 14th century. Today the manor is privately owned.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.