Category Archives: Visingsö

Kumlaby church at the island Visingsö

Last week I visited Visingsö, an island in Lake Vättern; it is an island with plenty of ancient remains and cultural heritage. If you happen to be in the vicinity it’s well worth a visit.

I’ve written about Visingsö here before so I thought I should show a few things that are easy to miss out on.

Just south of Kumlaby church is Visingsö folk high school and Visingsö Museum. The museum is situated in a building from 1633 built as a courthouse by count Per Brahe the younger (1602-1680). In 1680 it had lost its use as a courthouse and became the “new” school house for or the school Per Brahe established on Visingsö in 1636, it had previously been housed in Kumblaby church. In 1816 the school was moved to Jonkoping and is today known as Per Brahe high school. Today it houses a small museum. The collection isn’t big but relevant and hold finds and keys to the islands history, from the Stone Age and fourth. Within the museum two of four known rune stones from Visingsö are walled in (one is long since lost and the fourth at Jonkoping County Museum). It’s well worth a stop while you’re on the island.

A few pictures from the museum.

Rune stone SM 124

Inscription: : iskil : auk : kuna : (l)agþu : setn : …n : bunta sin : kuþ halb : se(l)u has :

Translated to English: Áskell and Gunna laid the stone … their husbandman. May God help his soul.

Rune stone SM 125

inscription: …n × lit : kaura : stain : þinsi ×: aftir : fiul:muþ : …

Translated to English: … had this stone made in memory of Fjôlmóðr ..

At the graveyard by the Brahe church, aka Ströja church (Per Brahe the Younger demolished most of the medieval Ströja church in the 1600s and built the Brahe church, the only remaining part of the medieval church is the tower), this piece of a stone cist, of Eskilstuna type, with ornamentations was found in 1988. These kinds of stone cists, or remain of them, are unusual and found around some medieval churches. These monuments are normally dated to the 11th or 12th century and may indicate an older church than the Ströja at the spot. Ströja church was built during the 12th century. On this some the colours are intact.

A model of Visingsborg castle, as it once looked. Today the ruin can be seen from the harbour, and is open for visits. As you will notice, if you visit only ruins, there are only ruins of the southern part of the castle, the west wing and the north wing have long since gone – but the ruin is impressive none the less.

The original school house was Kumlaby church. The church itself was probably built during the 12th century and is open for visitors during the summer for a small fee, you’re also allowed up in the tower to watch the view. Until 1811 the school used the church building at least occasionally but after 1811 it became a deserted church left to the forces of nature. During its use as a school the building went through some rather big changes: The entrances on the south side of the tower and the nave was walled up and a portal to the west was raised, the medieval windows of the naves north and south walls were also walled up and square windows were raised. The paintings on the inner walls and roof were covered by lime. The spire was removed and a patio made for astronomical observations. Though used as a school the burial ground was still in use until 1893, though not frequently, when a new burial ground was landscaped at Brahe church, by the harbour, on the island.

From1876-1884 the decay was temporary stopped as the church was being used as a missionary. Between 1884-1922 it was once again left to the forces of nature.

In 1922 a renovation was started, in the church the paintings from the 15th century was uncovered, some of the 17th century paintings have been kept. The work restoration is described in J.M. Danielssons book Kunlaby kyrka och kyrkogård på Visingsö 1929. (Kumlaby church and graveyard at Visingsö).

The paintings within the church and the hike up the tower are interesting but I believe there at least as interesting things that can be seen outside the church. Just under the roof of the north and south side of the nave, in the east end, one can see carved ornaments in the form of leaves and animal ornamentation. Another interesting detail is at the southern portal, made of sandstone, which has a zigzag ornamentation which indicates a probable influence from the west, from England. Furthermore, there are two clear stonemason brands in the portal. Walking around the churchyard I’m also struck by how well-preserved the gravestones are.

These are just a few of the things there are to keep an eye out for; I’ll probably come back to Visingsö again.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Today archaeology in Jonkoping, tomorrow Visingsö

I’ve used my days in Jonkoping to catch up with friends and local archaeology. I’ve visited Jonkoping County Museums excavation of the medieval road Eriksgatan, the road the Swedish king or queen had and still have to travel after his or hers coronation to visit the different parts of his or hers kingdom. A tradition that goes back to the 13th century when the kingdom Sweden became a kingdom. In every province the king was to be accepted by the local government, the trip started at Mora stenar in Uppland went through Södermanland to the east shore of lake Vättern in Östergötland to Jönköping at the south end of lake Vättern, in Småland, then north through Västergötland, Närke and Västmanland and finally returning to Uppland. At Jonkoping County museum are some pictures of finds and info concerning the excavation (link in Swedish).

The open trench wherein a part of Eriksgatan is visable, it’s well preserved and one can see where the wagon wheels once traveled. If you’re in the neighborhood hurry by! I think it’s really cool to be able to experience a part of a road that is so intimately connected to Swedish history and the beginning of Sweden as a kingdom, a symbol for the nation then and now. Just imagine that one of those wheel tracks belonged to king Magnus Eriksson (1319-1364) in 1335, the first king we now for a certainty  made the trip.

I also visited the excavation of Svenska maden (Swedish maden), where the national heritage board (RAA) is excavating. Svenska maden is an area in the outskirt of 17th century Jonkoping, where Swedish workers worked and lived (link in Swedish). At the time the area wasn’t very nice as this was wetlands, it was continually filled up with sand to make it habitable, though probably still wet, damp and probably not that nice. A few years back Tyska maden (German maden) was  excavated with very interesting results. At Tyska maden german workers lived under similar conditions.

Tomorrow I plan to visit the island Visingsö, the whole island is a paradise for archeobuffs; large grave fields, medieval castle ruins, historic castle ruins, medieval churches etc. I’ve worked on several materials from the island during my studies at Stockholm University and as always when you study something you get sidetracked. These sidetracks are often left unfinished as they don’t fit the essay or the work you currently do. This time I aim to pick up such a sidetrack and see if can transform it into a small article. No matter what a few pictures are bound to find its way to this blog in a few days.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Olle Krantz (1906-1999) – a Swedish painter and sculptor

One of my favourite Swedish painters is Olle Krantz, he lived and created his art on the island Visingsö. He built an estate on the island a kind of haven which reflected and displayed his art, Tempelgården (the Temple estate). My parents knew his so I had the opportunity to meet on several occasion in my youth. At the time I don’t believe the art was what fascinated me the most, it was the temple and his home; His home is best described as a mix of Pippi Longstockings house and the treasure cave of Aladdin. If my memory serves me correct there where things and trinkets everywhere, mixed with colours and art of different kinds, you could look all day and still not be able to get it all in – I loved it.

Today I appreciate his art, I like the way he used colours, mixed the naive with expressionism and his capturing of the moment.


Women by the waterfront
Women by the waterfront

As I was in Jonkoping during the holidays I spotted some of his paintings and photographed them thinking I write a post on him. A few days ago I googled him and found close to nothing, now that’s a shame – but my father use to save articles and such so I asked him if he saved any on Olle Krantz. As I guessed he had and hence a post on a artist from the island Visingsö in lake Vaettern, Sweden.

Self portrait
Self portrait

Olle Krantz was born at Visingsö in 1906 one of eight siblings. In an Interview from 1993 in local paper Jonkopingsposten (JP) Olle talks about his art. The paintings often depict scenes of love, bodily pleasures and bare women others concerns biblical motives and questions concerning his personal faith and yet others are pictures from his life, for example from his childhood on Visingsö, from his first marriage and his later partner Rut who died due to illness.

Dancing women & Wedding carriage
Dancing women & Wedding carriage

In the article he talks about the therapeutic value of painting as a way to deal with the grief and find both happiness and meaning in life. His main purpose with his art was not to get recognition but to feel good and joy within himself.

The important thing in life is not to loose faith in your own abilities, to not lose your spark. Many postpone everything believing that they will do all the fun things when they retire. One should not postpone but do.”  

Boy playing the flute
Boy playing the flute

In 1951 Olle Krantz gave up his day job as proprietor of a small grocery store on Visingsö to become a professional artist to the disbelief of others. But Olle persisted that he would live his dream and so he did.

“…every community should have place for an oaf and on Visingso the oaf is me!

Young woman
Young woman

During the 1940’s he had begun building the cottages that would become a vital part of the Temple estate (Tempelgården) and in 1956 as he bought and rebuilt the Temple that have given the estate its name. The Temple is a copy of the Parthenon and was originally built by the Theosophists by the castle ruin Visingsborg for their world peace conference on the island in 1913. Olle used it as a centrepiece in the garden and as an exhibit hall for his paintings. The estate can be said to be his legacy to Visingso and those visit the island. 

Olle Krantz did his last exhibit in 1996 and he could look back on a life as a professional artist on Visingso that spun over more than four decades. He is one of those who gave all for art for the purpose of art, he was able to create his own universe and open it up for those interested. I believe and hope that there still is a place for this kind of personalities that lets us now that not all need to conform and be conventional and who can show us an alternative view of the world.
Olle Krantz, unknown photographer
Olle Krantz, unknown photographer

The temple estate is still open for visitors, at which one can rent a cabin and live on the estate among his art; in the garden are many of his statues and in the temple are a selection of his paintings. Though it’s been a few years since I visited it I believe it’s still a treat. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any good pictures of the estate but there are several pictures on the home page. 

The temple and art exhibit

The sculptor park

The cottages 

Magnus Reuterdahl

(Quotes translated by Magnus Reuterdahl from an article in JP 1993)
The photo of Olle Krantz is probably from JP though I am not sure, if the owner of the photo wants it removed please send me a mail on inventerare [delete_this]

A curiosity

As I probably have mentioned on one occasion or the other I was born and raised in Jonkoping. Part of the heritage that I bring with me from childhood is the things that awoken my interest in past times; this includes periodicals, year books etc concerning Jonkoping and it’s history. This weekend was spent in Stockholm and as I rummaged through some preaviously unread or hastly skimmed through I found an interesting little article in Gudmunds Gillets (Gudmund’s Guild) aka Jonkopings local history association annual from 1989: 67-70.

The article I found was on Mark Twain’s three months visit to Jönköping in 1899.

On the 10th of July Mark Twain, his wife and his daughter Jane arrived in Jonkoping to visit Jonas Henrik Kellgren’s health institute (Institutet för Manuel Sjukbehandling) to get treatment for his rheumatism. The institute main building, called “Gula Sanna”, is ca 150 yrs old and still stands. Kellgren methods towards health was massage and brusque physiotherapy.

Gula Sanna
Gula Sanna

In a letter to his daughter he pictures a gloomy vision of his summer; it seems to have been a boring, dull and somewhat monotonous existence with Kellgrens patients, whom he calls “the damned”.

Thou gloomy he seems to have appreciated the sunsets, in an other letter he wrote; I’ve seen about sixty sunsets here and at least forty of  these surpasses every other I’ve seen. America, the tropics – they have no idea of what a sunset should be like…  *

Most of the time spent in Jonkoping seems to have been bound to the institute, though he made a trip to Visingsö with the ship “Per Brahe” that a few years later went down in a storm, bringing the demise to the Swedish painter John Bauer (one of my personal favorites).

Painting by John Bauer called Tuvstarr, this image is originally from Malmo museum.

While in Jonkoping Mark Twain wrote one novel “my boyhood dream” and one poem “To above old people”. So now I’ll have to look these up, if for nothing else a small distraction.

Magnus Reuterdahl

*) This is not an exact quote; I’ve seen a couple of  different version, sometimes with a few more countries and sometimes with a more metaphoric addition.

Jönköpings hembygdsförening Gudmundsgillet (link in Swedish)

The castle Brahehus


The ruin of the castle Brahehus is situated by the highway E4 some miles north of Gränna. Its demise is accentuated by the modernity that has been allowed to overtake the area rather than be integrated in the ruin site. The ruin feels out of place when seen from the rest stop, where the highway and the modern structures seem to surpass the ruin. The pathway to the ruin runs under the highway and seems to further suppress it; one almost feels like walking the path of the doomed to face the ruins of yesterday.

The highway seems to diminish Brahehus.

Brahehus seen from the reststop.

The pathway under the highway that leads to Brahehus.

But all that ends as soon as one comes up to the ruin and sees the grand view over lake Vättern, Gränna and the island Visingsö. At this time the ruin or castle is the centre and the highway is but a parenthesis in my subconscious. One can feel how right the castle was placed in the landscape.

Brahehus, castle

The view from one of the window frames, down below is the bank between Gränna and Uppgränna outside which one sees lake Vättern and the island Visingsö.

Uppgränna från Brahehus

View over Uppgränna, in Uppgränna stands a beautiful rune stone.

 View over the middle and south part of the island Visingsö.

View over the northern part of Visingsö

Brahehus was built for the high chancellor count Per Brahe the younger in the mid 17th century. It was intended as a country retreat but became the dower house for his wife Kristina Katarina Stenbock, though she died before it was finished. The building process started in 1638 and wasn’t finished until the mid 1650’s. It was inspired by the medieval castles in Germany, regarding the location.

From this point one could see the other two castles that made up the Brahe castle triangle; Västanå castle (today the home of a golf course) and Visingsö castle (another ruin one can visit on the island Visingsö). As Per Brahes wife died the castle was used more or less as tourist complex, and for parties.

It is said that there has been several houses made out of wood around the castle, among others there might have been an inn and stables. It was destroyed in a fire 1708 and was left to decay, several renovations has been made since the beginning of the 20th century.


I’ve been to Brahehus on several occasions, as a child and fourth, but you always learn or seen something new when you visit a place. This time I took a closer look at one of the cellars.

The door to the celler

Behind the door a small cellar opens up, but as you can see the farther wall does not seem to have a 17th century origin. This makes me curious, do the cellar continue onwards, that’s my belief. So now I feel a need to read up the castle and see if I can find out anything more about the cellar. I also got interested if there are any archaeological evidence of the possible houses built outside of the castle or if anyone has made any research about it (mayhap one could try to make a project out of it???).

It is a stop one shouldn’t miss!

Magnus Reuterdahl

What to expect of the coming week

As this blog just passed the 3000 visitors mark I thought it was time to check up if the value of this site have changed since I last checked it out on April the 25th. Then the value was at $1,129.08. So what’s the value today?

My blog is worth $11,855.34.
How much is your blog worth?

Now that’s a bit of a change. Lucky me!


Back to business! At the moment I busy with trying to get my reports done before this projects ends. So you’ll have to forgive me for being a bit lazy ‘bout posting. Hopefully I will have time to swing by the Church of Skatelöv and take some pictures on the rune stone Sm 6, the picture stones and the place where they were found. If so I will publish them later tonight or during the weekend. If the weather allows it I will go to Visingsö (a island in lake Vättern) and do some excursion, if so I’ll publish some pictures and a few notes later on.I’ve written some preavious posts on Visingsö that is here and here.

Hopefully I will have time next week to write something about my upcoming job in Kalix and a little about the site we shall excavate.

Magnus Reuterdahl

The legend of Vise and Vätte

The legend of Vise and Vätte is really the legend of Visingsö. This story was published by Oscar Ljungström under the title  “Sagan om Visingsö”. The edition I got my hands on was printed by himself in1925, it was originally published in Göteborgs Handles- och Sjöfarts-Tidning (Gothenburg’s Commerce and Navigation paper) April the 25th, 1919. 

There is a stone monument placed on the northwest shore of Visingsö. On the monument count Brahe wrote something like this in the 17th centuary: “Here our ancestors once hade a castle, Borga castle”. If you look out from the shoreline you will se a large rock in the water, and this rock is said to once have been palced in the centre of Borga castle. Though there probably never has existed a castle in this place there are several folklores telling us stories about it. Ljungström gives us one that I have translated and summarized: 

Map of the northern part o Visingsö 

Map of the northern part of Visingsö. Circled to the left is Borga sten (the rock in the story below).

In ancient times Lake Vättern did not exist, instead there was a bountifully valley ruled by a good and wise king. This was long ago in an age when man lived in peace and everyone was happy. It is so far back that men still remembered when Heimdall walked among the people. The name of the king is long forgotten but we know of his two sons: Vise and Vätte. They inherited the land and they were to rule it together. Although Vise who was the oldest and wisest among the brothers should have the last say in matters. 

Vise built a castle on the on a long hill in the midst of the valley just beside a small lake and Vätte built his in another location, unknown where. Vises castle was a magnificent building and in the courtyard there was a great rock upon which Vise stood when he was to make a proclamation. King Vätte was not as wise as his brother but instead the greatest among warriors and his task was to defend the kingdom. He was also one of the most beautiful amongst men so all maidens in the Kingdom wanted his heart. Even the mermaid that lived in the small lake next to Vises castle was longing for him.      

All was well as long Vätte often visited his brother and took his advice. But within Vätte lured envy and delusiveness and even more so since his mind was clouded by the sighs of the mermaid. One day Vise brought home a fair maiden to be his queen, this turned Vättes envy into hatred. Wild with rage he decided to steal his brother’s crown, his wife and be the sole ruler of the kingdom.       

Some time later Vise was to go abroad on business, he gave the keys to the castle to a trusted servant called Bard and invited the mermaid to keep his wife company while he was away. This was the moment Vätte had awaited. He called upon his soldiers and they marched towards the castle. Bard had somehow anticipated this and when he got word of what was going on he saddled a horses for the queen and him to reach Vise. When Vätte came to the castle ha was able to march in without a fight. In the castle the mermaid waited transformed to appear to be the queen and doing so trick Vätte into making her his queen.      

When Vätte sat in his castle he soon realise that he should have destroyed the castle so that his brother didn’t have any shelter when he returned. He called forth his men and they marched to the castle. But no castle was to be seen; only the large rock that had stood in the middle of the courtyard. The castle had sunken to the underground claimed by Vanerna (normally connected to the religion of the Vikings).

King Vätte had taken rule of the land but the golden age was gone and there were trouble in the land. The mermaid who now was queen started to long for the water, her servants and friends living at the bottom of the lake. One day when her longings were greater than usual she begun to sing and the lake answered her longing and the water started to raise, soon it covered the entire valley. The valley is today called Lake Vättern and the only part that was not flooded is the long hill upon which king Vise built his castle and that is known as Visingsö.     

It is said that the mermaid and King Vätte still lives in the castle on the bottom on Lake Vättern. When the mermaids sing their songs the lake is clear and still. But king Vätte is still filled with rage as he didn’t manage to destroy his brother’s castle and then he sends his men as waves to battle the shoreline of Visingsö to tear the castle down. If you row a boat along the rocky northwest shore on a clear day it is said that you can glimpse part of the castle under the surface, a stair, a part of a wall etc. For a long time king Vätte has taken small parts of the castle down to his kingdom, even the great rock that once was on courtyard of the castle is now in part under the waves. 

This is but one of the legends connected with Borga castle. In the northwest part of the island there a few place names that keep the legend alive as well as the stone monument raised by count Brahe in the 17th centaury. Another story tells about the rune magician Kettil and the giant Gilbertil. But that is story for another time. 

Evan though there isn’t much archaeology in this there is always good to have a story to tell when visiting the island with friends or others.  

//Magnus Reuterdahl

 Visingös sigill

The seal of Visingsö.

When on vacation in Sweden don’t miss Visingsö!

An area in Sweden that has fascinated me is the island Visingsö in lake Vättern. The island is interesting from several views of perspectives. It is a small island about 14 km N-S and 3 km E-V with a population of ca 800  (more info in Swedish). Since the 17the century there has been little exploitation on the island, therefore the distribution of villages, farms and roads are an almost intact view of the 16th -17th century. Throughout the island there a many monuments that remind us the islands history all the way from the Stone Age until present day. If you are into studies regarding place name, Visingsö is a small paradise as most names are from the middle ages or older and the distrubtion is more or less intact.

From the Stone Age and Bronze Age there are several finds of stone axes and bronze artefacts and such made by farmers while working on there fields or building new houses. There are also a couple of grave monuments (two stone cists) that are normally dated to either the late neolithic or the Bronze Age and a few postholes has been dated to the late neolithic or early bronze age. Settlements from time are yet to be found. 

Stonage Grave Visingsö

Stone cist on Visingsö. Photo: Magnus Reuterdahl.

From the Iron Age there are several finds, most graves. There are three large burial grounds, called the south, the middle and the north burial grounds, each contains more than 150 monuments. In total there are still more than 800 monuments on the burial grounds still clearly visible on the island. The visible monuments are mostly from the early Iron Age but a few on the southern burial grounds has been dated to the late iron age. At both the southern and the middle burial ground archaeological excavations have found unmarked graves from the late iron age. Almost all graves are cremations. There is an exception though, a few km north of the northern burial ground is a place where a small village burial ground was excavated in the early 20th century with about 15-20 burials. Here are both cremations burials and three graves where traces of coffins were made. In my master theses in Osteoarchaeology I made analysis of the bones from the graves excavated between ca. 1880-1970, ca 35 graves. Only a few graves have been excavated in later times, so to get a picture of local burial customs there is a need for excavations on all three large burial grounds. The village burial ground of Avlösa is fully or almost fully excavated. 

After the Iron Age follows the medieval one, at this time Visingsö becomes the centre of politics in what was to become Sweden. At the southern tip of the island are the ruins of the castle Näs. This are the ruins of the oldest castle in Sweden, build somewhere around 1130-1160 A.D. and probably destroyed ca 1318.

Ruins of the castle Näs at Visingsö

The ruins of the castle Näs. Photo: Magnus Reuterdahl.

During the 12th and 13th century at least four Kings died on the island; Karl Sverkersson was killed in 1167 by Knut Eriksson how died from illness in 1216 followed by Johan Sverkersson who also died of 1222 last but not least Magnus Ladulås who died around Christmas time 1290. Magnus Ladulås begun to transfer the political power to Stockholm during his reign and was buried in church on Riddarholmen in Stockholm. He was probably the last king of this area to see Visingsö as a centre.  

From the middle ages there are also two churches on the island, Kumlaby and Ströja. The Ströja kyrkan is today called Brahe kyrkan as the church was partly reconstructed in the 17th century. From Ströja there is only the church tower left incorporated into Brahe kyrkan. A few km north of Brahekyrkan are the ruins of small chapel, the chapel of St. Laurentii. 

Kumlabykyrka the church at Kumlaby Visingsö 

Kumlaby kyrka from the end of the 12th century. Photo: Magnus Reuterdahl.

In the 17th century Visingsö once again became an important place in Swedish politic as Per Brahe the younger used Visingsö as the centre for his power. The ruins of Visingsborg are still manifesting proof of his time. The castle was burnt down in 1718, and only a part of the castle remains today.  This is just a short description of Visingsö I will get back to it though for more specific descriptions of different monuments and problems. 

 // Magnus Reuterdahl 


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