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

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.