Gudhem Abbey, (Gudhems kloster), in operation from 1152 to 1529, was a nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian. It is considered to have been one of the oldest convents in Sweden, after Vreta Abbey (1100) and Alvastra Abbey (1143).
Gudhem, a name signifying "Home of the Gods", was according to tradition a holy place of worship already before Christianity. According to the saga, one hundred images of the thunder god Thor was placed in Gudhem. According to a popular legend, Gudhem Abbey was founded in 1052 by Gunnhildr Sveinsdóttir, Queen Dowager of Sweden and Denmark, who returned to a life of penitence in her estate in Västergötland in Sweden, after her marriage with king Svein II of Denmark was annulled by the Church. In reality, however, the Abbey was founded exactly one hundred years later, in 1152. Charles VII of Sweden donated the royal estate of Gudhem Manor to the Abbey during his reign (1161-1167), and the nunnery was by then described as newly established.
Gudhem Abbey was a prestigious during the 13th century, when it was responsible for providing the Pilgrims of Nidaros with hospitality. The Swedish Queen Dowager Catherine of Ymseborg entered the abbey in the mid 13th century and donated her wast estates to it. During the reformation in 1527, the abbey was confiscated by the crown, and the year after, it was granted to the knight Nils Olofsson. The former nuns, however, were granted an allowance from the properties formerly belonging to the abbey and the right to live in the building for life. In 1529, the abbey caught fire and burned down. The last abbess asked the King to rebuilt the abbey, but her request was not granted, and the nuns was housed by the surrounding peasantry. They continued to be supported by the allowance granted them in 1527. There were still former nuns benefiting from the allowance living in the surroundings of the former abbey in 1540. The abbey was never rebuilt again, and the ruins were used as a quarry.
In the late 17th century, the walls of the church was still in original height. The ruins was excavated in 1928-1969. Gudhem Abbey is the inspiration of the nunnery in The Knight Templar (Crusades trilogy), were the character Cecelia is imprisoned.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.