Category Archives: Medieval churches

A prolongation of employment

It seems I’ll stay for at least another month ’til the end of April as I got offered a prolongation of my employment at the County Administrative Board in Norrbotten.

So perhaps I’ll see a Norrbottnian spring as well as a winter. It’s been nice to have had a real winter; with lots of snow and cold temperatures. Down south where I’ve spent most my winters the winter is more of a period of grey; a perpetual mix of fog, rain, sometimes snow and thaw.

Later this month I’m going to Thessaloniki (Θεσσαλονίκη) in Greece for a few days, if anyone has tips of must visit sites in Thessaloniki please write a comment.

Magnus Reuterdahl


I am open to suggestions!

As it looks now; the coming Monday will be the start of my last month in Norrbotten County, at least for this time.  So in about a month I will be back in Stockholm – this has both pros and cons, it will be nice to come home but I will miss colleagues, work and newly acquired friends.

So it is high time to start job hunting. Luckily there are some openings, a few museums are looking for staff for the upcoming season and a couple of substitutes and also there are a few ads regarding employment at a couple of County Administrative Boards and at an archaeological entrepreneur.

This also means that it is time to update my CV and write something smart about myself. I’ve begun to contacting a few selected museums, archaeological entrepreneurs and County Administrative Boards that I would like to be associated with or work with.

This time around I’ve also turned to the international market and applied for a job at Museum of London; which could be very exacting.

In other words, I am open to suggestions! (Preferably regarding archeology or osteology).

Well I’ve got a month left of employment so I’ll know what to with my time, and luckly I also got a few days of vacation to use before March 31st; This will be used for among other things a trip to Thessaloniki in Greece at the end of the month.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Door to Door


I’ve taken up the habit of walking through the rows of church cabins in Gammelstads Kyrkstad (church town) during the weekends. The silence and void of people makes you flinch at sudden movements or sounds and it is easy to let your thoughts wander. When I walked around the other day I noticed something I hadn’t before. A repeating pattern of some sort, I realised that most doors wore a resemblance. Certain normative symbols appeared every other step; triangles, squares etc. So I started to make a small survey in my head, grouping them according to appearances. I also took some photos of them. Now I did not look at all doors nor did I pass all cabins so this is quite summarily but it still gave a result; I identified four groups of doors.

The most usual one is the one with triangle at the top and standing panel on the bottom(ca 20)




The second group is a more classic door with X numbers of panels(ca 15)




Then I found a couple of doors with a fish bone pattern(2)



And one with a rounded archway(1)


As you can see the frequency show that some are more common than others. The cabins in them self are often quite simple, the red painted panels are from the beginning of the 20th century, but the outer doors and the window frames are more elaborated.


When one looks in between the cottages there are those who have a more old-fashioned appearance as well as some walls that have no panels.



There is a kind of beauty in those ruff edges and weather-beaten walls that has stood the test of time just as it is a bit ghost like as no one lives in them. They’re empty, silent, closed in by walls of snow and deserted ‘til the next church festival or festivity.


Magnus Reuterdahl

The Open Air museum Hägnan

Gammelstad (Old town) is a church village, more about the church and the church village can be found in previous posts here and here, dates back to the Middle Ages. Some of the oldest known parts of the village was placed where the open-air museum Hägnan (the fence) now resides or very nearby.


Within this area excavations have dated constructions to the 14th century and forth. It is believed that a chapel mentioned in texts from the 14th century that later on was turned into a church (1374), was situated in the near vicinity. According to the sources the vicarage was placed nearby the church and within Hägnan the vicarage was placed during the 16th century. In 1558 it was turned into a Kungsgård (a royal farmstead) and in 1563 turned back to be a vicarage again. There are also a couple of C14 datings to the 12th and the 10th century but I haven’t found out exactly were these were made, though probably within Hägnan.


Within the Open air museum are buildings that are in its original place as well as buildings that has been moved there later on. It visit gives a view into the Norrlandic farmsteads and its developments.


This village store is one of newer buildings; it was originally situated in Kalix and is from the early 19th century, then added to and rebuilt over time. Today a village store in style of the 1920’s is in place, it is open during tourist seasons.


A loft shed from the 18th century, at the time the buildings formed an inner farm square. When they became obsolete many were torned down and today only 8 are still left within Norrbotten.


An interesting feature is an open building, where one can study how the house skeleton and see construction details.

I recommend a visit if you are in the vicinity of Lulea, the church, the church village and the Open Air museum is a full days worth of cultural activity.

A view toward Gammelstad and Nederlulea church from the NW edges of Hägnan.

Link to Hägnan Open Air museum (In Swedish)

Magnus Reuterdahl

Gammelstads kyrkstad (Church town) a world heritage site

Now I’ve gotten me a internet connection so hopefully I’ll be a little bit more active that I’ve been the last months.

As I currently live within a world heritage site I’ve walked around and taken some pictures. The parts that are easily accessible are the visible parts, in this case the church and buildings that make up the church town.


Lets start with the church that was built in the 15thcentury, consecrated in 1492 or possible a few years earlier during the final years of the middle ages (in Sweden we normally say that middle ages end around the coronation of king Gustav Vasa 1523 or in connection with the reformation of the church to Protestantism). The church is known as Nederlulea church.


The baptismal font is most probably older than the church. As you can see it is two parts whereas I believe the top part (the font) is the older.


The frescoes in the chancel was found under the plaster and restored in 1909 and probably painted by the famous Albertus Pictor during the 15th century.


This round stone is a bit of a mystery.

When first I looked at it I supposed it was grave stone from the Iron Age as it looks much like the circular stones that mark some graves in the southern and middle parts of Sweden. It is ca 45-55 cm in diameter. Then I noticed the markings and supposed that those were of Sámi origin. I’ve later larded that the stone is a bit of a mystery, it can’t be connected to a grave, though this is not impossibility, and the carvings are not Sámi.

If I’ve understood it right the common belief is that the stone has been placed in the church sometime during the last few hundred years and that the carvings have been made by someone to look like Sámi markings. Exacting isn’t it?

This church has like many others traces from several ages, the pulpit in Baroque style was mad in 1712 and painted in 1742.


The church town I s made up by about 500 wooden cottages. The oldest written source concerning the church town is from the 17thcentury by Johannes Bureus who visited it in the year 1600. The cottages have been used and are still used for accommodation for churchgoers as they visited the church on church festivals, for example Christmas and Easter. This was also used by the state to collect taxes from the churchgoers who often lived far from the church.


The oldest part of the Church town is from the first half of the14thcentury. I’ll get back to you with some pictures and some facts of the archaeological part of Gammelstad church town.

Magnus Reuterdahl

A quick visit to Visby

Today I arrived for a quick visit to Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea, and the medieval city Visby. Though here on business that not is connected with archaeology I was pleased to be greeted by a picture stone at the airport.


This was found in the church Stenkyrka and is and is dated to ca 700 AD.

The night is spent at hotel St. Clemens within the city walls. How about these surroundings?


I’ll take some photos of the city wall, houses and ruins tomorrow. 

Magnus Reuterdahl

Three medieval churches, two rune stones and a mound.

I haven’t been lazy I just haven’t had access to the internet the last few days. I arrived in Luleå late Sunday night after a 10 hour drive and has since been working on an excavation, more on that later on. Consequently I will publish three post today of which this is the first.

Saturday I spent in Linköping with my fiancée, we took a drive in the countryside to watch some churches and rune stones, and we scored gold.

Our first stop was Ledberg church, the church is built during the 19th century on the place where the medieval one once stood. So the church itself isn’t all that interesting but ca 100 meter south of the church is a great mound called Ledbergs kulle (hill). The mound is the biggest one in Östergötland and it is probably built during the Iron Age (ca 800-1050 AD) but might be as old as from the 6th century AD.

As you can see the top is a bit flat, as one climbs the mound one can see a small fördjupning at the top and of course the great view.

At the information sign I learned that there was a rune stone by the church at the cemetery. I have to say that the lack of information signs showing where there are rune stones in Östergötland are really crappy. At several stones there is nothing that gives it away, here it is mentioned on a information sign regarding another monument, and this rune stone, Ög 181, is a real gem with carvings (images) from the Old Norse mythology.

The runic inscription on the front is as follows; (b)isi : sati : st(n) : þ(a)s(i) : iftiR : þurkut : u—–þ- : faþu(r)

Translated into English; Bisi placed this stone in memory of Þorgautr … his father.


The runic inscription on the front is as follows; : sin : uk : þu : kuna : baþi : þmk:iii:sss:ttt:iii:l(l)l

Translated into English; And Gunna, both. Thistle, mistletoe, casket. The last part has been interpreted as a spell or curse.

The pictures have been interpreted as images from the story of Ragnarök. On the backside is an image of Fenrisulven, the brother of Midgårdsormen, biting Odin in his foot.

At this sign I would expect an information sign with a bit more information than is available today, there information is very basic and only in Swedish, this one deserves more.

After this visit we went on to Björkeberg church, a very pretty church with a lovely small absid.

A thought that ran trough my head was that the small kor and the absid have the size of a stave church and that this possibly was the first Romanesque church and that the ship was built later on. At this point another negative comment; I miss information signs about the medieval churches in Östergötland like the ones in for example Kronobergs County.


At the doorstep of one to the small door to the sacristy an old grave stone has been reused a gotten a new function. The church was not open for visitors so we couldn’t see the inside.

The next and last stop was another gem; Kaga church and it was open for visitors. The oldest parts of Kaga church are from the 12th century, this includes the tower and the main building. The south entrance room was added in the 17th century and the sacristy in the 18th century.

A walled in rune stone, Ög 103, can be found in one of the outer walls. There’s no road pointer for this one either. Another rune stone has been found here but is now placed in the public library at Linköping.

The runic inscription on the front is as follows; tufi : raisti : stain : þinsi * iftiR : liþbufa * faþur * sin *

Translated into English; Tófi raised this stone in memory of Lið-Bófi, his father.

Well inside the church we was amazed by the beautiful paintings and relics. The southern entrance door is from the 12th century and one of the oldest in Östergötland.

A lion holding a man in his mouth, it has probably been part of the original south gate.

The paintings visible in the church are from the 15th century. There are also paintings from the 12th century but these can only be seen from the church vind. That’ll be for another time.


In conclusion a great day with great stops, in Östergötland county is lots and lots to see for those who are interested but the lack road pointers probably makes many miss them and the lack of good information signs at the sites is a loss for those who happens to stop at them.

Magnus Reuterdahl

The rune stones at Skärkind old church; Ög 171 and Ög 172

In the beginning of this week I once again found myself in Östergötland County, this time on a road trip. One of the places I visited was Skärkind, a small place along the Kings road (Eriksgatan). The kings road was really more of a route that a newly elected or proclaimed king had to take to be accepted as king through the realms during the early middle ages. In the 12th century the first church (at least the first church built by stone) at Skärskind was built. This church was replaced by a new one in the early 19th century. The old church was then demolished except for the choir that was rebuilt and is used as chapel at the cemetery.


The reason for this visit was not the chapel, though there are some medieval effects preserved within but the two rune stones; Ög 171 and Ög 172 that have been erected outside the chapel.


Ög 171 is interesting as it belongs to the oldest group of rune stones, dated to the 5th or the 6th century.

The inscription is made with the old futhork and is transliterated into skiþaleubaz which has been interpreted as a man’s name: Skinþa-Leubaz or Skinn-Ljuv. Skinn means Skin might be connected to skin (fur) trade and an addition to his surname Ljuv. Skinn might also be connected to farm/village some kilometres northwest of the church named Skinnstad. The rune stone was found during the demolishment of the old church in the 19th century so we have no way of knowing where it’s original placement has been.


Ög 172 was also found as the church was demolished but this one is from the Viking Age or the early Middle Ages. On this stone the younger futhork or the Viking Age futhork has been used. The young futhork is dated from ca 800 AD and used forth. The inscription is transliterated into: kutr : uk : fastulfR : uk : burn : uk : rustin : þiR : ristu : stin : þina : i-tR : stibi : faþur : sin * kuþan which in turn becomes Gautr ok Fastulfr ok Bjôrn ok Hróðsteinn þeir reistu stein þenna e[p]tir Stybbi, fôður sinn góðan or in English; Gautr and Fastulfr and Bjôrn and Hróðsteinn, they raised this stone in memory of Stybbir, their good father.


On the west wall of the chapel that does not seem to be of medieval origin at a first glance is a small Romanesque sculpture of two heads.

We visited more churches, rune stones and a castle on the way so there is yet more to come…

Magnus Reuterdahl

At home again, at least for a while.

Though I will miss working at Östergötland County museum, and I hope that I might return for more work, it is always good to be home.

Over the last weeks I’ve been around Linköping and watching some scenic spots. Linköping is one of five medieval towns in the County and has been the centre of the church since at least the 12th century in Östergötland.

Vreta cloister was founded in 1128 (just a few km west of Linköping, see this post) and the oldest parts of the dome is from the 12th century. St Lars (Laurentii) is the other medieval church within the city limits.

St Lars
St Lars

While the medieval church has been destroyed and replaced one can still visit the foundations of the medieval church, it has been excavated and preserved under the floor of the church.

Underneath the floor one can see the walls and plan of the Romanesque church as well as a lot of the fins that have mead during the excavations here.

A grave underneath the medieval church.

Among the interesting finds are two medieval coffins made of tree that has been preserved.


At plain sight is the church tower that in part, the first three floors, is medieval.

If you have the chance to visit the crypt aka the foundations of the medieval church it is a real treat.

The medieval part of the tower goes up just below the tower hatches.

The stairs up to the first floor of the tower.

On the wall one can see the where the old roof of the church has been.

The stairs to the third floor.

At the church and in the cemetery several sepulchral monuments called Eskilstuna kistor (cists) has been found. These cists are normally dated to the 11th century and are often decorated with ornaments that resembles the Viking Age and those found carved on Stave churches (more info here), if there is any inscriptions on them they are normally made with runes. This gives a strong indication that there has been an even older church before the Romanesque one, possibly a stave church.

One of sepulchral monument found in St Lars.

This one is on display on the ground floor in the tower.

There is yet more to come from Linköping

Best wishes

Magnus Reuterdahl

Rune stones and other scenic spots in Västergötland visited in 2005 part 1

As I searched for some pictures the other day I found some that I would like to share from a trip to Västergötland 2005.

Levene church  

Stop number one was at Levene church that according to ledged is from the 11th century though it has been added to and rebuilt several times, mainly during the 17th century. It is said that the jarl Håkan Röde (Hakan the red) is buried here; he was presumably born ca 1045 AD and died in 1079 AD. It is also said that he had the church built or moved to Levene.


Silly enough I didn’t take any notes on this head stone; I do believe that it is a medieval, or possibly from the 16th century, grave-stone that has originally been part of the floor inside the church before being walled in. Anyhow it’s gorgeous!

Medieval carvings in Romanesque-style. 

In the vestry are two liljestenar, though I photographed one of them for some reason. Liljestenar is medieval carvings in Romanesque-style; they are often carved into flat tartar stones and mainly found in or close by medieval churches. I also managed to get up in the tower that reviled some interesting traits:

 cross medieval

Above the entrance there is a mark after a cross that has been incorporated in to the wall, though it could aIso be part of some construction detail to let something else hang on the that wall. As always when one comes upon something new, or rather something that one has not seen before, curiosity awakens.

A dial from the ages

In the tower I also came across this beautiful dial from days past by, as dials goes it’s not really my cup of tea but an educated guess would be; possibly 17th or 18th century? (Please correct in me if I’m wrong, because I am like …)

 Rune Stone, Levene church, kyrka, runsten

Outside of the church stands Sweden’s highest rune stone (Vg 117), 4,6 meters in height. It was found in two pieces during a renovation in 1927-28 walled in at the both sides of the main gate.

The inscription goes as follows:

Herulfr reisti stein eptir sonu sína Var(?)/Vôr(?) ok Þorgaut. Guð hjalpi sálu þeira vel. Þeir …

Translated into English:

Herulfr raised the stone in memory of his sons Varr(?)/Vôrr(?) and Þorgautr. May God well help their souls. They …

 levene church

Magnus Reuterdahl

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