Medieval churches in Sweden

Skara Cathedral

Skara Cathedral is the seat for the bishop of the Church of Sweden Diocese of Skara. It is also one the largest churches in Sweden. The history of cathedral is traced from the 11th century and it was inaugurated as a cathedral around 1150. The current appearance is from the 13th century. The current Gothic design dates to the 1886-1894 restoration under the leadership of architect Helgo Zettervall. The furnishings are uni ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Skara, Sweden

Ystad Abbey

Ystad Abbey was inaugurated in 1267 by the Fransiscan Order. Along Vadstena it is the best preserved medieval abbey in Sweden. Dissolved at the Reformation, the Abbey was handed over to the towns people and soon fell into disrepair. The eastern part and gatekeeper’s house has survived to present days.. In 1912 it became home to the local museum, which holds changing temporary exhibitions in a wing of the abbey and ...
Founded: 1267 | Location: Ystad, Sweden

Västerås Cathedral

The oldest parts of Västerås Cathedral date from the 13th century. It was originally built as a triple-aisled basilica in the 1230s and inaugurated in 1271. The cathedral was rebuilt and enlarged during the next two centuries. The tower was erected around 1420. The steeple was added in 1691 and it was designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. The most famous person buried to the Västerås Cathedral i ...
Founded: 1230-1271 | Location: Västerås, Sweden

Nederluleå Church

Nederluleå church is the largest medieval church in Norrland. It was built during the 15th century and inaugurated by Archbishop Jacob Ulfsson in 1492. The church has a very rich interior and furnishings. The late-mediaeval frescos in the chancel were by the school of Albertus Pictor. The richly decorated triptych was made in Antwerpen around 1520 and it is one of the finest in Sweden. The font and cruficix date al ...
Founded: 1492 | Location: Gammelstad, Sweden

Norberg Church

There has been a church on this site since the 14th century, although two severe fires have caused that it has been rebuilt twice. Much of the present appearance of the church is owing to a restoration carried out in 1904, when the church was decorated attractively in the Art Nouveau style. Much of the interior is embellished with floral motifs including roses. Religious items, including the pulpit and altarpiece, date ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Norberg, Sweden

Vadstena Abbey

The Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, more commonly referred to as Vadstena Abbey, was the motherhouse of the Bridgettine Order. The abbey started on one of the farms donated to it by the king, but the town of Vadstena grew up around it. The abbey was founded in 1346 by Saint Bridget with the assistance of King Magnus IV of Sweden and his Queen Blanche of Namur, who made a will donating ten farms to the abbey founded ...
Founded: 1346 | Location: Vadstena, Sweden

St Ibb's Old Church

St Ibb's Church is located at the top of a hill in the churchyard. The oldest parts date back to the 13th century. It was enlarged in the early 1400s and vaulting was added later in the same century. The tower was damaged in wars between Sweden and Denmark and demolished in 1726. The font dates from the 13th century and is made of Norwegian stone. The altarpiece has been painted by Tobias Gemperlin before 1578 and donated ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sankt Ibb, Sweden

Burlöv Old Church

The Old Church of Burlöv is one of the oldest churches in Scania. It has mostly remained the way it was built in the 12th century, with its oldest parts made of sandstone. There is a font from the 13th century, in Gotland style, once damaged and removed from the church, but now restored. The beautiful altarpiece contains eleven scenes from the life of Christ. It dates from the 16th century.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Burlöv, Sweden

Österhaninge Church

The medieval Österhaninge church date from the 13th century. The sacristy and porch were added in 1400s and the tower in 1587. The chapel of Bielkenstierna family was designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Older in 1663. The marble epitaph was made by Nicolas Millich in 1680. Also the pulpit date from the 17th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Haninge, Sweden

St. Nicholas' Church

St. Nicholas" Church chancel dates from the 1100s and the nave was added during the next century. The church was originally a chapel for fishermen, and as the town has expanded, has been built on substantially. The finely carved pulpit dates from 1626 and is believed to be the work of Claus Clausen Billedsnider.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Simrishamn, Sweden

Skokloster Church

Skokloster Church, the second oldest brick church in Sweden, was built for nuns of the Cistercian order in the late 13th century. In the 17th century it became the Wrangel family burial church as well as for services. There are several significant artefacts in the church, like medieval crucifix and other wooden sculptures. The pulpit and altar were brought in the 17th century from Oliwa monastery in Gdansk, Poland. Behi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Skokloster, Sweden

Varnhem Abbey

Varnhem Abbey (Varnhems kloster) was founded around 1150 by monks of the Cistercian Order from Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland. The Cistercian Order used the same floor plan for all its abbeys, which makes it possible to easily locate the different rooms and halls regardless of the building site. A wooden and a stone church were both erected on the site before the abbey was built. The stone church was erected in ...
Founded: ca. 1150 | Location: Varnhem, Sweden

Lena Church

The church of Lena was built around the year 1300 and consisted of nave, tower and vestry. Wall paintings were added in the early 16th century. The church's eastern part is a chapel where members of the family Bielke are buried. The altarpiece was made in 1491 by carpenter Lars Germundsson in Enköping. Next to the near vicarage are ruins from the late Iron Age, namely, five burial mounds, a large number of stone formati ...
Founded: ca. 1300 | Location: Vattholma, Sweden

Rättvik Church

Rättvik Church dates from c. 1300. It has been enlarged several times and its present shape is from 1793. The church contains some fascinating old inventory like a triumphal crucifix believed to have been made in Germany in the 14th century. There are also medieval frescoes depicting St. Olav and St. Stephen. The altarpiece depicting the Resurrection of Christ was made in the 17th century as well as the pulpit. Arou ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Rättvik, Sweden

St. Lawrence's Church

St. Lawrence"s Church has a long and complicated history that goes back to sometime around the end of the 13th century. It is one of few medieval churches in Östergötland built entirely in brick, a circumstance which may be connected to there being a large number of German merchants active in Söderköping at the time, and it remains a fine Swedish example of Brick Gothic. The original church had th ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Söderköping, Sweden

Church of the Holy Cross

Only the church remains from the medieval Ronneby. The building of the Holy Cross Church was started at the end of the 12th century. Already during the first half of the 13th century, the church was made twice as big. The church was rebuilt even more during the 14th and 15th centuries, because Ronneby became a town.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ronneby, Sweden

St. Lawrence's Church

The St. Lawrence’s church (S:t Laurentii kyrka) was probably built around year 1300. It was enlarged in the 15th or 16th century and burned down in the Seven Years War (1563-1570).
Founded: ca. 1300 | Location: Falkenberg, Sweden

Skanör Church

The Romanescue-style St. Olaf’s Church in Skanör was built in the 13th century to the site of earlier church probably dating from the 1100s. It was reconstructed partially: the extension to west and the tower were made in the 14th century and the chancel was rebuilt in the 15th century. Skanör church is one of few churches in Scania with a crypt.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Skanör, Sweden

St. Peter's Church Ruins

St. Peter's Church have been probably built in two phases during the 12th century.The eastern part with chancel, transept and central tower were erected first during the late 1100's, while the nave and the present west tower were added later. According the tradition the church was used as a bishop’s cathedral until 1130 when the bishop's seat was moved to Gamla Uppsala. The another legend believes the church has be ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sigtuna, Sweden

Bromma Church

Bromma church is a medieval so-called round church. The oldest parts of the church were built in the later 12th century as a fortress church, and the church is among Stockholm's oldest buildings. Originally the church consisted of the round house and a choir on the east side. The nave and the sacristy were constructed in the mid 15th century, built in stone. In the 1480s Albertus Pictor or his pupils painted more than for ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Stockholm, 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.