History of Sweden between 400 AD - 539 AD
The Migration Period was in general a period of intensified human migration in Europe from about 400 to 800 AD. The changes in material culture marking the start of the Migration Period appear to coincide with the arrival of the Huns on the continental stage. A brief tumultuous phase ensued during which Western Rome collapsed and Eastern Rome held the barbarians at bay only through enormous peace payments. As a consequence, the Scandinavian elite of the time was inundated with gold. It was used to produce some very fine goldsmith work including filigree collars and bracteate pendants. The memory of this Golden Age reverberates through all the main early Germanic poetry cycles, including Beowulf and the Niebelungenlied.
Another feature of the Migration Period that had far-reaching consequences was the development of the first Scandinavian animal art. Inspired by provincial Roman chip-carved belt mounts decorated with lions and dolphins along the edges, Scandinavian artisans of the Migration Period developed first the Nydam Style, and then the highly abstract and sophisticated Style I from c. 450 onward.
The Migration Period was long believed to have been a time of crisis and devastation in Scandinavia. In recent decades, however, scholarship has gravitated to the view that the period was in fact one of prosperity and glorious elite culture, but that it ended with a severe crisis, possibly having to do with the AD 535-536 atmospheric dust event and the concomitant famine.
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.