Gotland has 92 Medieval churches
You can pretty much see a church tower from any viewpoint on Gotland. And these include 92 beautiful Medieval churches. That there are so many is due to the booming economy in the Middle Ages – and paradoxically enough, that lean times came after good times.
Christianity came to Gotland in the 11th Century. That was also when the first wooden churches began to be built. The beautiful Medieval stone churches still standing on Gotland date from the early 12th Century until around 1350. During this era, Gotland was home to a relatively wealthy community
Local farmers often joined forces to build their own church. Some were the size of cathedrals, while others were smaller churches in the Romanesque style.
Since 2017, the parish council of North Gotland has been producing its own communion wine from grapes grown in the area.n.
In Medieval times, society revolved around churches, that had close links with the state and power. From here the king’s word was spread via priests preaching to the local congregations.
Danish raids and Black Death made life grim for the local population. Gotland’s wealthy heyday was over and now there was no longer any money to build new churches. Existing churches were simply kept in use instead, although many were later refurbished both internally and externally.
Churches as a piece of history
These Medieval churches are architectural masterpieces – and to think they were constructed without the aid of modern machinery and other technology. Their furnishings, artwork, murals and other fittings reveal fascinating insights into the way people lived then, the clothes they wore and other details.
In Visby, for example, St. Mary’s Cathedral is well worth a visit as an attraction in its own right, but if you take a closer look inside, you can see old tombstones on the floor and admire the stained glass windows designed by artist Pär Andersson.
These Medieval churches are all still in use today. The magnificent buildings often host events such as concerts and lectures – in addition to usual church services, weddings, baptisms and funerals. As a visitor, you are welcome to step inside and further explore the churches. Most are open during the day, from 15 May to 15 September.
Three churches worth visiting
Akebäck church – Located in the Roma parish, where visitors can admire the spectacular chandelier and a beautiful votive ship.
Hall church – In the north of Gotland, beautifully situated near a meadow. Inside the church there are fascinating Medieval plaster paintings.
Fröjel church – Said to offer the best views on the island. It is also adjacent to a tranquil cemetery that houses an ancient labyrinth.
Did you know that:
Gotland has several cholera cemeteries? In addition to the church burial grounds, Gotland has five cholera cemeteries where victims of a 19th Century cholera pandemic are buried.
DCommunion wine is made on Gotland? Since 2017, the parish council of North Gotland has been producing its own communion wine from grapes grown in the area
That Gotland has numerous church and monastery ruins? In addition to Visby’s 13 imposing church ruins, there are Ecclesia Desolata, or abandoned churches, worth seeing: Ardre Ecclesia Desolata/Gunnfjaun Chapel, Bara Ecclesia Desolata, Elinghem Ecclesia Desolata, and Gann Ecclesia Desolata. In Roma the extensive monastery ruins are used as a theatre stage in summer.