Medieval churches in Gotland

Tofta Church

The earliest church on this location in Tofta was probably built during the end of the 12th century. The oldest part of the presently visible church is the tower. The nave and choir both date from the middle of the 14th century. The church walls display fragments of medieval frescos that were found during a restoration in 1958-1959. A few medieval stained glass windows are likewise preserved in the church. Of the furnish ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Tofta, Sweden

Sundre Church

Sundre Church was originally built as the church for a large farmstead. This first church was wooden, and built during the early 12th century. A few painted remains of the church have been preserved at the Museum of Gotland in Visby. They were painted by a Russian artist and the scene depicts the Last Judgement. It has been speculated whether the remains were originally parts of an iconostasis, given the Russian origin of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Burgsvik, 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

Garde Church

Garde Church was built originally in the mid-1100s. The apsis was added in the 14th century. The Gothic-style church is a good sample of medieval church building tradition in Sweden. The font and crucifix date from the first church, both were made in the 1100s. Pre-Christian picture stones, made between 400-1100 AD, have been found from Garde church during the restoration.
Founded: ca. 1150 | Location: Garde, Sweden

Hablingbo Church

Hablingbo Church was made of sandstone. The tower was erected around the year 1200 and the Gothic-style main nave and choir were built in the 14th century. The sacristy was added in the 1730s. The most interesting detail is a Lion Portal, originally the main entrance to the former 12th century Romanesque church. When the church was rebuilt in the 14th century, it was re-used in the north face of the nave. The story of Ca ...
Founded: ca. 1200 | Location: Havdhem, Sweden

Dalhem Church

The nave and chancel of Dalhem Church were contructed in the early 1200s. It was enlarged some decades later by the workshop of master Egypticus. Murals were restored in the early 20th century. There is a beautiful tombstone in the northern wall from the 1100s.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dalhem, Sweden

Eksta Church

The oldest part of Eksta Church is the tower, dating from the 13th century and still unchanged. The rest of the church is also from the Middle Ages, but was heavily rebuilt in 1838. The church still has four medieval portals, in both Romanesque and Gothic style. The interior of the church is largely Neoclassical, dating from the 1838 renovation. A few traces of medieval frescos have survived on the walls, as have a single ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Eksta, Sweden

Bunge Church

The tower of Bunge Church was originally built for defensive purposes as part of the older church. The present nave and choir were built around 1300. The interior is richly decorated with murals, dating from from the end of 14th century. These magnificent paintings were made probably by Baltic master, who arrived to Gotland with Teutonic Order. The baptismal font and limestone almsbox (with rune inscription: ”Lafra ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Fårösund, Sweden

Burs Church

The church in Burs derives its unusual shape from the fact that it was built in stages. The nave is the oldest part of the church, dating from the early 13th century. The large tower was built in the middle of the same century, while the un-proportionally large Gothic choir was built a century later, replacing an earlierRomanesque choir and apse. Externally, the church is noteworthy not least for its choir portal. The do ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stånga, 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

Buttle Church

Buttle Church nave and western chancel were built in the late 1100s. It was rebuilt in the early 1200s and again in 1300s. There are frescoes mainly from the 1400s in vaults. The altarpiace dates also from 1400s and triumph cruficix from the 1100s (it is one of the oldest in Gotland). The font was made in mid-1200s and pulpit in early 1700s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Romakloster, Sweden

Hamra Church

Hamra Church was built from the mid-13th century to early 14th century. The retable of sandstone dates from 1792. The triumph crucifix and font dates from the Middle Ages.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hamra, Sweden

När Church

The oldest part of the presently visible church at När is the tower, erected at the middle of the 13th century. Originally, it was designed to be able to function as a defensive tower, with arrowslits still visible on the first floor. The present nave and choir of the church were added to the tower around the year 1300. Of an earlier, Romanesque church on the same site no traces remain today. Externally, the church has ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: När, Sweden

Etelhem Church

The oldest part of the Etelhem Church is a tower, built in the beginning of 1200s. The nave and choir were built around 1300 and sacristy added in 1600s. The interior is decorated with mural paintings made in the 1400s. The well-preserved stained glass in choir window dates from the 1300s. The font was made of sandstone in the late 1100s and wooden crucifix was carved in 1300s. The pulpit dates from 1648 and altar from 16 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stånga, Sweden

Björke Church

The western part of the Björke Church chancel and nave were built in the 13th century. The chancel was extended to the east during next century and sacristy was added in 1860. The font and cruficix date from the 13th century. The pulpit (1594) is one of the oldest in Gotland.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Romakloster, Sweden

Hangvar Church

Hangvar church dates from the 13th century. The oldest parts are the choir and nave; the tower was built slightly later. The church has a decorated entrance portal, with sculpted capitals and a sculpture of a man"s head above the portal. Internally, the church ceiling is supported by four vaults which rest on a central column. The base of the column is decorated with carved figures. Among the furnishings, the baptism ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hangvar, Sweden

Rute Church

The oldest part of the Rute church is the choir, built c. 1230. The nave was built around ten years later, while the tower and the west portal were the last parts of the church to be built. The church was decorated with frescos inside during the late Middle Ages. These were executed by the artist known as the Master of the Passion of Christ and were rediscovered during a renovation in 1951. The church ceiling is supported ...
Founded: c. 1230 | Location: Rute, Sweden

Eskelhem Church

Eskelhem Church was preceded by a wooden church, of which nothing remains. Circa 1200 it was replaced by a stone church. The walls of the nave of the present church are all that remains of this edifice. The church was successively enlarged and rebuilt until it received its present form in the middle of the 14th century. Internally, the church is decorated with different sets of frescos, dating from the end of the 13th ce ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Eskelhem, Sweden

Levide Church

Levide Church is a largely Romanesque church of a character unique for the countryside of Gotland. Parts of the choir, notably the area around the portal, is however comparable to the northern portal of Visby Cathedral in Visby, the main town of the island. The oldest parts of the church are the aforementioned choir with its apse, dating from the late 12th century. The nave dates from the early 13th century while the tow ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Levide, Sweden

Vänge Church

The Romanesque church tower is the oldest part of the church. It was built circa 1200. Originally it was attached to a Romanesque church, the nave and choir of which however was replaced with the presently visible Gothic parts at the end of the 13th century. The sacristy is the only non-medieval part of the church; it was built in 1866. The exterior of the church is decorated with Romanesque reliefs, re-used from the earl ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Vänge, 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.