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

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.