Runic texts in Dädesjö medival church

Dädesjö kyrka 

The spectacular medieval paintings on the Dädejö church has gotten both national and international acclaim. Of the medieval church there is only the longhouse that stands today. On the outside of the church there are visible decoration in red on the outer walls, these are reconstructions of a décor from 1651. On the façade boats are intricate medieval figures engraved such as lions, dragons and other mythological creatures, this can be found on some medieval churches around Sweden another example is the church Kumlaby at Visingsö.

The ceiling of Dädesjö kyrka

Within the church there are several interesting artwork from medieval times. On the inside walls and on the ceiling there are paintings dated to the 13th century, especially the artwork on the roof are spectacular since the ceiling never have been repainted. The paintings are based on the nativity Story; from the annunciation and birth of Jesus to the infanticides in Bethlehem, all the paintings are framed as medallions. In one of these the name Gabreal is painted in runes. The usage of runes is not uncommon in churches during the middle ages, though they are not usually incorporated in Christian paintings. In the church of Hemse on Gotland there is a great calendar made by the runic futhark (the first seven syllables in the runic alphabet in this case symbolizing the seven days of the week) other examples includes the painters name etc. In the Dädesjö church there is yet another rune painting that is found in the triumphal arch. The church was deemed to be too small and was abandoned in 1792 for a new church. This old one was used as among other things a storage house.  In 1906 the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities bought the church. Today the National Heritage Board is the caretaker.

For me the runic paintings are the most interesting with this church. The one found in the triumphal arch is painted within two ribbons. They were found during reconstruction works as late as in 1938-41. On both sides of the ribbons there is a mythological creature facing each other. The inscription was interpreted by Ivar Lindquist as:”Here we fought. Sigmund painted us.” According to the Nordic Runic text database it transcribes to; h– art(u)…–(s)—– ¶ (s)ihmunder : sk(þ)e ¶ f(u)s and is interpreted to: H[ér](?) Sigmundr skrifaði oss translated to English; “H… … Sigmund scribed/painted us.” In other words the first few words are possible to transcribe or interpret while the last part is fairly easy. One can discuss the meaning with the word skrifaði, does it refer to the runes, to the paintings or both, should the meaning be painted or wrote etc. Either way it does not do that big a difference to overbearing meaning: Sigmund wrote( or painted) something on this wall, most probably both the runes and the creatures. An interesting question though is if it was he who did the actual painting or he who had it done? The mural is dated to ca 1250-1300.  As mentioned earlier yet another painted runic text is to be found within one of the medallions on the ceiling with the name Gabriel, watch under the angels right hand. The painting is dated to ca. 1275-1300.

Runes in Dädesjö kyrka

More pictures will be added soon

 //Magnus Reuterdahl


About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

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