Medieval churches in Gotland

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. 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

Hejde Church

Hejde Church is a medieval Lutheran church in Hejde on the island of Gotland. The church tower and the nave are the oldest parts of Hejde Church, dating from the middle of the 13th century. The choir is about a century later and replaced an earlier and smaller Romanesque choir. Plans to also enlarge the nave and tower were never executed. The sacristy dates from 1795. The church has two decorated entrance portals on the ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Hejde, Sweden

Grötlingbo Church

Grötlingbo church was built in the early 1200s and it was sanctified to St. Luke the Evangelist in 1296. The present nave and apsis were added in the mid-1300s. The tower date from the first church. The pulpit, made in 1548, was originally situated in the Visby Cathedral and brought to Grötlingbo in 1699. The font and triumph crucifix date from the 13th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Grötlingbo, Sweden

Mästerby Church

Mästerby Church dates largely from the 13th century. The nave, choir and apse were built first, at the beginning of the century. In the middle of the same century, the tower was also built. The nave was made higher about a century later, and at this time both the nave and choir received vaulted ceilings. The church has remained relatively unaltered since the end of the Middle Ages. Only the sacristy is significantly late ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mästerby, Sweden

Follingbo Church

The oldest parts of Follingbo Church are the nave and tower. They date from circa 1200 and together form an unusually accomplished example of Romanesque architecture on Gotland. Although lacking in ornamental sculpture, the tower and nave are well-proportioned and unusually professionally executed. The choir is later (late 13th century) and already Gothic in style, and also considered unusual for its kind. The choir repla ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Follingbo, Sweden

Roma Church

The current Roma church was preceded by a considerably smaller, Romanesque church. Some fragments from this church have been re-used and incorporated in the façade of the later church. The still extant sacristy is also a remnant of this earlier church. The earlier church was torn down and successively replaced with Gothic style building between 1215 and 1255. Dendrochronological examinations have shown that the latest a ...
Founded: 1215-1255 | Location: Romakloster, Sweden

Väte Church

Väte Church was built of stone during the 1300s and is one of the largest in Gotland. It consists of thee naves with arches, sacristy and chancel the north side. The chancel with vestry was built around 1300. The nave is considered to originate from the master Egypticus or his workshop. The triumph crucifix originate from the earlier church (made around 1200) and the baptismal font was carved by master Byzantios in ...
Founded: ca. 1300 | Location: Gotland, Sweden

Endre Church

The present Endre church was preceded by an older, Romanesque church. Of this church, only the tower, built in the 12th century, remains. A few stone sculptures have also been re-used in the later church, e.g. one sculpture depicting a dragon and another a lion. These are now immured in the southern façade of the church. The rest of the church dates from the 13th century (the choir and sacristy) and the early 14th (the n ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Endre, Sweden

Stenkumla Church

The oldest part of the Stemkumla church is the tower. It was erected at the beginning of the 13th century. Originally it was attached to a Romanesque church dating from the 12th century, but this was replaced with the current church in stages. The choir thus dates from the middle of the 13th century, while the nave of the church was built at the beginning of the 14th century. The church has remained largely unaltered sinc ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stenkumla, Sweden

Alva Church

The oldest parts of Alva Church are the choir and the apse, dating from the early 13th century. To this the nave was added during the late part of the same century. Construction of the broad tower started about a hundred years later but was never finished; hence the somewhat squat appearance of the church today. It seems in fact that construction of the church came to a rapid end: apart from the half-finished tower, the m ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hemse, Sweden

Ardre Church

The oldest part of the Ardre Church is the tower, dating from about 1200. The tower originally belonged to an earlier church building from the 12th century, the nave and choir of which was replaced with the current building circa 1250. The sculptured choir portal originally also belonged to the earlier church. The interior of the church was heavily remodelled after plans by artist Axel Herman Hägg in 1900-1902, in a ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Ljugarn, Sweden

Atlingbo Church

The foundations of Atlingbo church originate from the 12th century and it is one of the oldest in Gotland. The present church building was erected during the 13th century. Its chancel has Gothic style apsidal plan. The altar dates from the 17th century and benches from the 18th century. The pulpit was made by Rasmus Felderman in 1693. The octagonal sandstone font dates from the 12th century and it is made by master ' ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Romakloster, Sweden

Gammelgarn Church

The chancel and middle nave of the Gammelgarn Church were built in the early 1300s. The fortified tower date from the previous church built in the 1200s. The southern portal is beautifully decorated with mural paintings, made probably by master Fabulator. A pulpit was probably carved by the carpenter master Jochim Sterling from Visby in the 17th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Katthammarsvik, Sweden

Hemse Church

The current stone church in Hemse dates mainly from the 13th century. However, about a century earlier there was a stave church built at the same location. The surprisingly well-preserved stave church was found by chance under the floor of the stone church during a restoration in 1896, where the wooden planks of the church had served as an earlier floor. The wooden church, known as Hemse stave church, is the most well-pre ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hemse, Sweden

Ala Church

Ala Church was originally built in the 12th century as so-called apse chapel, a small round building. The tower and present apsis were added around 1250. The interior was destroyed by fire in 1938. Some frescos were restored later. The limestone font, made in the mid-1200s, survived from fire and the pulpit (1663) was moved from Björke Church.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ala, Sweden

Havdhem Church

While the oldest parts of Havdhem Church have been identified as being from the first half of the 12th century, graves dating from the period of the arrival of Christendom to Gotland (11th century) have been discovered in the cemetery. The choir is the oldest part of the church itself. It shows resemblances with the churches of Garde and Källunge. The choir portal is however later, from the 13th century. The nave dates f ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Havdhem, Sweden

Lojsta Church

The Romanesque choir and nave of Lojsta Church were probably built in the mid-1200s. The tower was replaced with the present one in the 14th century. The baptismal font was made probably in the 12th century, stained glass in 13th century, wall paintings 13th –16th century. The pulpit date from the 1600s and it was repainted in 1749.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Hemse, Sweden

Linde Church

Linde Church is a homogeneous Romanesque church. Construction of the presently visible church started in the late 12th century and was finished in the early 13th century. A single, large Gothic window was inserted in the eastern wall in the 14th century. The external nave and choir portals are both decorated with Romanesque sculptures. Inside, the church is decorated with frescos. On the northern wall is a set of paintin ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Linde, Sweden

Fide Church

Fide Church dates from the 13th century. Oldest are the nave and choir, while the tower was added slightly later. The roof lantern which gives the top of the tower its distinctive shape is however considerably later, from 1826. The church lies in an unusually well-preserved medieval cemetery which is surrounded by a low wall in which three medieval gates still sits. The building material of the church is sandstone. The e ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Fide, 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.