Medieval churches in Gotland

Alskog Church

The oldest part of the Alskog church is the nave, dating from the first quarter of the 13th century. It displays an unusual southern portal, decorated with sculptures. Inside, the nave is divided in two parts by two central columns and has a vaulted ceiling. The tower is somewhat later but also from the early 13th century. Its portal show similarities with the tower portal of Visby Cathedral. The much larger choir and ves ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ljugarn, Sweden

Fardhem Church

The current Romanesque church in Fardhem was built originally in the late 1100s and it is one of the oldest churches in Gotland. The nave was built in c. 1200 and tower in late 1200s. The sacristy dates from restoration made in 1871-1872. The font pedestal is the oldest inventory in the church, dating from the 1100s. The pulpit was made in 1720 and organs in 1899.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Hemse, Sweden

Näs Church

Näs church was built in the middle of the 13th century, and remains today largely unchanged. The interior was changed during a renovation made in 1910, and according to tradition the tower was originally higher. However, few of the original furnishings have survived. The altarpiece dates from 1692, and made in Burgsvik, while the pulpit is from the middle of the 18th century. The triumphal cross is a copy of a medieval ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Näs, Sweden

Sproge Church

The presently visible stone church at Sproge dates from the 13th century. The nave and choir are the oldest parts of the church, built during the first half of the century. The tower was added at the end of the same century. On the south facade of the church there is a plaque claiming the construction date of the church to be 1058, but this date appears to be pure fantasy. The church however had a wooden predecessor, a st ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sproge, Sweden

Stånga Church

The oldest parts of Stånga Church were built in the 12th century. The middle nave date from the early 1300s and it was designed by master Egypticus. The font, made by master Hegvald, date from the 12th century and crucifix from the late 13th century.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gotland, Sweden

Gunnfjauns Chapel Ruins

Gunnfjauns Chapel in Ardre parish was probably built as a  chapel for the medieval marketplace of Kaupungsklint in the 1300s. Today it lies in ruins.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ljugarn, Sweden

Hogrän Church

Hogrän Church consists of a Romanesque tower and a Gothic nave and choir. The tower thus is the oldest part of the church, dating from circa 1200. Attached to it was originally an earlier stone church, also Romanesque in style and erected during the 12th century. During the 14th century, it was however replaced by the presently visible Gothic nave and choir. A few details from this earlier church, such as a few sculpted ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Norrlanda Church

A first stone church was built on the site of current Norrlanda Church in the 12th century. To this church a Romanesque tower was added in the 13th century. The presently visible church tower is this tower, and the only remains of the first church. The nave and choir were torn down in the late 13th or early 14th century, and replaced with a new choir and sacristy. A new nave was built slightly later, in the middle of the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gothem, Sweden

Silte Church

Silte Church dates from from the 13th century. During restorative work carried out in 1971-72, the remains of a stave church was however found under the floor of the presently visible church, pre-dating the present church with around one hundred years. The oldest part of the now visible stone church is the choir, dating from the middle of the century and in an early Gothic style. The nave is only slightly later, and appar ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Silte, Sweden

Halla Church

The oldest part of Halla Church is the Romanesque nave, dating from circa 1200. The tower is slightly later, while the disproportionally large choir is from the middle of the 14th century, in Gothic style and replacing an older on the same spot. Scholars have concluded that there were plans to replace the whole church with a Gothic edifice, but the builders probably ran out of funds after constructing the choir. The exte ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Halla, Sweden

Stenkyrka Church

According the Gutasaga, a man called Lickajr the Wise built one of the first churches on Gotland in Stenkyrka. If true, this first church was almost certainly wooden. The name Stenkyrka (literally in Swedish stone church) implies that also the stone church is very early, from a time when buildings made of stone (rather than wood) was still a phenomenon unusual enough to give name to a place. This first, Romanesque church ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stenkyrka, Sweden

Elinghem Church Ruins

Elinghem church was built in the 13th century and probably abandoned in the early 17th century. The altar with piscina and baptismal font still remain.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hangvar, Sweden

Gerum Church

The oldest parts of Gerum Church are the choir and apse, dating from circa 1200 and Romanesque in style. The presently visible, Gothic nave dates from a later time of the 13th century and probably replaced an earlier, Romanesque nave. The tower, which was never finished, was built circa 1300. The only non-medieval part of the church is the sacristy, built in 1835. Gerum Church is constructed of limestone. The exterior is ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Gerum, Sweden

Guldrupe Church

The oldest parts of Guldrupe church is the nave, dating from the late 12th century. Oak planks decorated with dragons have however been found on the site, and indicate that there may have existed an earlier, wooden church on the spot. The tower dates from the early 13th century, and from the end of the same century dates the un-proportionally large choir and sacristy. The choir replaced an earlier, smaller choir, but plan ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Guldrupe, Sweden

Martebo Church

The medieval church of Marterbo is well-known of its beautifully carved portals. The tower originates from the previous, Romanesque style church. The middle nave and sacristy were built in the 14th century and restored in the 19th century. The pulpit, made in the mid-1500s, is one of the oldest in Gotland. The babtismal font date from the 13th century, altar and epitaph from the late 17th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Tingstäde, Sweden

Lye Church

The main nave of Lye Church originate from the 12th century. The tower has dated to the year 1240 and the chancel was built in the early 1300s. The interesting detail is a stone-made relic chect made in the 1100s. There are also several mural paintings and artefacts made during the Middle Ages. The pulpit was added in 1705.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lye, Sweden

Källunge Church

Källunge church (Källunge kyrka) is a church in the island-bishopric of Visby on Gotland. The church is richly decorated with reliefs and frescoes. The frescoes are important evidence of the strong Byzantine influence on Swedish art of the 12th and 13th centuries. An early depiction of a nyckelharpa is found in a relief dating from circa 1350 on one of the gates of the church. The church gives its name to the K ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Tingstäde Church

A wooden church was built on the site of the current one in Tingstäde during the early 12th century. The church has later been replaced by first a Romanesque church, of which the portals survive, and later once more rebuilt in Gothic style during the 13th and 14th centuries. Few alterations have been made to the church since. The church was one of three so-called asylum churches on Gotland during the Middle Ages, a ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tingstäde, Sweden

Väskinde Church

Väskinde church choir was built slightly after 1250, followed by the nave and church tower in circa 1280. The church has remained largely unaltered since the Middle Ages. The church is Gothic in style. Noteworthy is the southern, sculptured portal of the choir. Its rich ornamentation is unusual for Gotland and seems to reflect an influence from Westphalian churches. Väskinde Church also houses some notable fittings. Th ...
Founded: 1250 | Location: Väskinde, Sweden

Hejdeby Church

Hejdeby Church was built in the 13th century, the choir and nave first (in late Romanesque style) and the tower later (showing early Gothic influences). The interior of the church is richly decorated with medieval frescos. These date from two periods: the oldest are from the 13th century and depict apostles, the crowning of Mary, and various saints. The other set of frescos date from the 15th century and depict scenes fro ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Visby, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.