Medieval churches in Gotland

Kräklingbo Church

The choir and its apse-like projection to the east are the oldest parts of Kräklingbo Church. This part of the church originally formed the nave and choir of an earlier church; an inscription mentions its inauguration in 1211. The present nave and sacristy were built around 1300, and thus incorporated these earlier elements. The east window in the apse-like projection dates from the reconstruction circa 1300. The two mai ...
Founded: 1211 | Location: Kräklingbo, Sweden

Träkumla Church

Träkumla stone church was preceded by a wooden church on the same site. The oldest part of the now visible church at Träkumla is the rectangular choir, which was built at the middle of the 13th century. The nave was added slightly later. The church was intended to have a tower; thick walls at the western end of the nave indicate that preparations were made for the erection of a tower, but it was never executed. The pres ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Träkumla, Sweden

Vall Church

Vall Church is a largely Romanesque church that dates from the 13th century. It was built in three phases. Oldest is the choir with the apse, and the nave, dating from the early part of the century. The tower was begun during the middle of the century and made higher at the end of the century. The church is a relatively well-preserved Romanesque building, with a tower that is unusually tall in comparison with similar chu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vall, Sweden

Anga Church

Anga church, built in the 1200s, is one of the smallest in Gotland. The interior is richly decorated by master Halvard. The altar date from the 14th century and triumph cruficix from the 15th century. The pulpi was made in the late 1600s. There is a runic inscription in the northern wall listing peasants, who worked in the construction.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Katthammarsvik, Sweden

Öja Church

The chancel and apsis of Öja Church were built in the early 13th century. The high tower, used as a landmark for seafarers, was completed in the middle 1300’s by building master Egypticus. The mural paintings, made in different centuries, are worth seeing. The most beautiful artefact in the church is a cross made around 1275.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gotland, Sweden

Gothem Church

Gothem church is one of the biggest in Gotland. The oldest part, apsis and sacristy date from the 1200s. The tower was completed around 1350. It was damaged by lightning in the 19th century and restored. The church bell is the largest medieval one in Gotland, made in 1374. The interior is decorated with mural paintings dating from the 14th century. There are remains of the older church outside and also a defence tower bu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gothem, 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

Vamlingbo Church

In the Medieval Period, Vamlingbo was the largest parish in the south of Gotland. A stone church was built here at a very early date. Remains of the original church can still be seen by way of sculptures that have been incorporated in the south wall of the nave of the new church. The baptismal font is also from the original church. The present church was built of sandstone in the 13th century. The steeple was struck by l ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Burgsvik, Sweden

Sanda Church

The oldest part of the church is the tower, dating from the middle of the 13th century. The nave is from the beginning of the 14th century, while the choir dates from the middle of the same century. There was an earlier church on the same spot, elements of which have been incorporated as building material in the presently visible church. The church is richly decorated inside with frescos dating from the Middle Ages. They ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sanda, Sweden

Lärbro Church

Lärbro Church was probably built between 1260-1280. The unusual octagonal steeple was erected in the 1300s. The interior date made mainly from the times after Reformation. The murals in the church vaults are originals. In the chancel floor, by the chancel portal, there is a tombstone in memory of Nicolaus (Nils) Taksten from 1274. To the west of church is a defence tower, which dates from the 12th century. I ...
Founded: 1260-1280 | Location: Lärbro, Sweden

Eke Church

The current Eke Church with its Romanesque nave and Gothic tower was predated by a stave church on the same location, fragments of which was found under the floor of the presently visible church in 1916. The stave church had been decorated with paintings in Byzantine style. The oldest part of the current building is the nave and choir, dating from the mid-13th century. The disproportionally massive tower was added in c. 1 ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Havdhem, Sweden

Sjonhem Church

The oldest part of the Sjonhem church is the tower, which was built in the 13th century. Originally it was attached to a much smaller Romanesque church. The choir and nave was however torn down and replaced with the current structure during the middle of the 13th century. Inside, church frescos decorate the vaults; these also date from the 13th century. Also probably original are some stained glass windows. A crucifix on ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sjonhem, Sweden

Östergarn Church

Östergarn church is a little 13th century church where the tower of was never built. It was burnt by the Swedes in 1565 during the Nordic Seven Years" War, whereat all medieval fittings were destroyed. It was also sacked by the Russians in 1715 and 1717. In a grave in the church yard lie the German seamen who fell on board the cruiser Albatross, when she was compelled by superior Russian forces to run ashore near t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Östergarn, Sweden

Fröjel Church

The tower of Fröjel Church was originally built in the 1100’s and other parts in the 14th century. The tower, made for defensive purposes, is today ruined. Between the lychgate and the church is located a maze, called “trojeborg”, of unknown age. There are mural paintings in chancel dating from the 14th century. The triumph crucifix was made around 1300 and the foundation of font date from the 12th ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Klintehamn, Sweden

Västerhejde Church

The church was built in Romanesque style during the 13th century, but underwent some changes during the 19th century. The southern portal was then removed, and the spire of the tower changed from its original, pointed design to its presently visible crow-stepped design, traditionally not found on churches of Gotland. The altarpiece, pulpit and pews date from the 17th century. An oil painting by Fredrik Westin that hangs i ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Västerhejde, Sweden

Klinte Church

The oldest part of Klinte Church is the base of the tower, which is from the first half of the 13th century and built in a decidedly Romanesque style. It is the only remaining part of an earlier, Romanesque church. Around the year 1300, the choir and nave of this church was replaced by the presently visible, Gothic choir and nave. During this time the upper part of the tower was also added. Externally, the base of the to ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Klintehamn, Sweden

Viklau Church

Viklau Church choir and nave were built in the late 12th century. The medieval church was completed with tower in the mid-13th century.  The sacristy was added in 1852-1853. One of Sweden's most well-known medieval sculptures, the Viklau Madonna, originally belonged to the church (now in the Swedish History Museum).
Founded: c. 1170 | Location: Viklau, Sweden

Rone Church

Rone church originate from the 1200s and it was built in a Romanesque style. The present appearance was constructed around the year 1300. Mural paintings in vaults were made also in the 14th century and the ones in main nave about a century later. There is an exceptional rich interior in Rone Church. The church bell, made in 1345, is the oldest in Gotland. The pulpit was made in 1595, the font and epitaph in 1664.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gotland, Sweden

Lau Church

The first Christian church was probably a wooden church. Of this church there is no trace, but the baptismal font in the Church today has probably belonged to this church. In the 1220s a new stone church of considerable size was built in round-headed Romanesque style and consisted of a nave with four pillars, chancel with two cross-arms and apse, an extension in the rear of the chancel where the altar was placed. A large ...
Founded: 1220s | Location: Lau, Sweden

Västergarn Church

The building of Västergarn Church was started around 1250, and it comprises no more than a chancel. Economic troubles put a stop to the building of the rest of the church. There is also a foundation of another church and the remains of a medieval defence tower.
Founded: ca.1250 | Location: Gotland, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.