The Rök Runestone is one of the most famous runestones, featuring the longest known runic inscription in stone. It is considered the first piece of written Swedish literature and thus it marks the beginning of the history of Swedish literature.
The stone was discovered built into the wall of the church in the 19th century and removed from the church wall a few decades later. The church was built in the 12th century, and it was common to use rune stones as building material for churches. The stone was probably carved in the early 9th century, judging from the main runic alphabet used ("short-twig" runes) and the form of the language. It is covered with runes on five sides, all except the base part that was to be put under ground. A few parts of the inscription are damaged, but most of it remains readable.
The name "Rök Stone" is something of a tautology: the stone is named after the village, "Rök", but the village is probably named after the stone, "Rauk" or "Rök" meaning "skittle-shaped stack/stone" in Old Norse.
The stone is unique in a number of ways. It contains a fragment of what is believed to be a lost piece of Norse mythology. It also makes a historical reference to Ostrogothic king (effectively emperor of the western Roman empire) Theodoric the Great. It contains the longest extant pre-Christian runic inscription - around 760 characters, and it is a virtuoso display of the carver's mastery of runic expression.
The inscription is partially encrypted in two ways; by displacement and by using special cipher runes. The inscription is intentionally challenging to read, using kennings in the manner of Old Norse skaldic poetry, and demonstrating the carver's command of different alphabets and writing styles (including code). The obscurity may perhaps even be part of a magic ritual.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.