Brattahlíð, often anglicised as Brattahlid, was Erik the Red's estate in the Eastern Settlement Viking colony he established in south-western Greenland toward the end of the 10th century. Erik and his descendants lived there until late in the 15th century. The name Brattahlíð means 'the steep slope'. At Brattahlíð stood probably the first church in the New World: Þjóðhildarkirkja (Thjodhild's church, actually a small chapel). A recent reconstruction of this chapel now stands at a distance from the actual site, along with a replica of a Norse longhouse.

At the site of the main church, built after the Norse were converted to Christianity, investigators have found melted fragments of bell-metal, and foundation stones of it and other buildings remained into the 20th century, as did the remnants of a possible forge. This church (not Thjodhild's chapel) measured 12,5x4,5 m and had two entrances, with what was evidently a hearth in the middle. Apparently, fire destroyed it. The church, possibly a 14th-century structure, may have stood on the ruins of an earlier church. The churchyard has tombstones, with a cross cut on one of them. On another stand engraved the runes for 'Ingibjørg's Grave'. Today, stones clearly mark the church's outline, though people probably placed them there in recent years; visitors can also see the surrounding graveyard.

One farm building nearby measured 53 by 14 m, with stone walls about 1.5 m thick; a turf outer bank provided further insulation. Inside, it had a flagstone floor. Flat stones — or, in one case, the shoulder-blade of a whale — formed the stalls. Some of these buildings still stood in 1953, contemporaneous with the Bluie West One airfield at Narsarsuaq, but today they exist mostly as depressions in the ground.

Brattahlíð still has some of the very best farmland in Greenland, owing to its location at the inner end of Eriksfjord, which protects it from the cold foggy weather and arctic waters of the outer coast. It has a youth hostel and a small store. More extensive facilities exist in Narsarsuaq across the fjord.

Brattahlíð hosted the first Greenlandic Þing (parliament), based on the Icelandic Althing. Its exact location remains unknown. The disappearance of the Norse settlements toward the end of the 15th century continues to mystify historians, but probably resulted from a combination of the Little Ice Age's cooling temperatures, soil erosion, abandonment by Norway, more convenient ways for Europeans to procure furs and a mercantile eclipsing by the Hanseatic League, and competition from the Inuit moving southward.

References:

Comments

Your name



User Reviews

Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Gruyères Castle

The Castle of Gruyères is one of the most famous in Switzerland. It was built between 1270 and 1282, following the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. It was the property of the Counts of Gruyères until the bankruptcy of the Count Michel in 1554. His creditors the cantons of Fribourg and Bern shared his earldom. From 1555 to 1798 the castle became residence to the bailiffs and then to the prefects sent by Fribourg.

In 1849 the castle was sold to the Bovy and Balland families, who used the castle as their summer residency and restored it. The castle was then bought back by the canton of Fribourg in 1938, made into a museum and opened to the public. Since 1993, a foundation ensures the conservation as well as the highlighting of the building and the art collection.

The castle is the home of three capes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. They were part of the war booty captured by the Swiss Confederates (which included troops from Gruyères) at the Battle of Morat against Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1476. As Charles the Bold was celebrating the anniversary of his father's death, one of the capes is a black velvet sacerdotal vestment with Philip the Good's emblem sewn into it.

A collection of landscapes by 19th century artists Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Barthélemy Menn and others are on display in the castle.