medieval battle visby

A Medieval battle in Visby, Gotland

A battle between Danish soldiers and farmers.

medievals battle 1361  information
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The year is 1361 and the citizens of Visby were doing what they usually did; shopping, eating, working etc. They didn't know that King Valdemar of Denmark and his army were on their way to the wealthy and strategically important Gotland.
  The citizens of Gotland had an exemption from duty with the king of Sweden. The Gotlanders [gute/gutar (sv)] had paid their taxes to the king of Sweden already in the 12th century, only 60 marks silver a year...! The taxes would hopefully give Gotland some protection in times of war.


  gotland  The Hansa cog was used as trade- and warship in the Baltic Sea during the 13th-14th century, here painted by Axel Nelson.
Click to enlarge.
    ©  Axel Nelson

All over northern Europe were groups of armed ships established to protect the trading. The organization in Visby, initiated and organized by Danes, was established between 1170-1180 with the name "universitas mercatorum Romanii imperii Gotlandiam frequentantium". A lot of Russians, Danes and particularly Germans settled in Visby for trading. It was the resident German section of the society that raised the dome church S:ta Maria, consecrated in 1225.



 In 1280 Visby joined "The Wendish City-alliance" (free translation) containing Riga, Lübeck, Tallinn, Riga and other big cities in northern Europe, who started the final separation between Visby and the countryside. As late as 1356 the -real- Hansa organisation was established, but at that time Visby had lost its importance as the trading hub in The Baltic Sea, Lübeck in Germany took over the role.
 Even the countryside of Gotland had a lot of rich people. To be respected and to show they had been christened, the parishioners raised their own church. That is why this little island has 92 stone churches, most of them created during the 13th century, and many medieval houses were inspired by the style that was used to build the churches. A lot of antagonism between the citizens of Visby and the citizens of the countryside ended with the city starting to build a city wall, and gradually the encircling wall became higher. The peasantry of Gotland, supported by Estonian knights, were defeated in an encounter in 1288.



Back to King Valdemar... they accomplished the landing the 22nd of July on the west coast of Gotland, and his plan was not to go directly with his army at the northwest coastal land of Gotland where Visby is situated. His 2500 soldiers did not meet much resistance from the farmers, except for two battles in the marshy grounds not far away from where the invading troops landed. The second day about 800-1000 farmers died in a place called Fjäle myr, but the graves have not yet been found. The 27th of July was a huge medieval battle between the Danish elite army and the farmers, only 300 meters outside the city wall of Visby. The farmers were badly armed, and about 1800 of the peasants met the death here, approximately 100 soldiers of king Valdemar´s army. His army also killed those who were injured with axes and maces. All this happened only eleven years after the Black Death visited Sweden.
 With new techniques the arcaeologists have found out what happened this tragic day of July 1361. Five mass graves from this medieval battle have been found outside the city wall of Visby. The first one was excavated 1905, and each grave have hundreds of victims. Between 1909 and 1928 two more mass graves were investigated. Later investigations have shown that one third of the Gothlandic army were children, old men and cripples. While the farmers were dying, the citizens of Visby just watched helplessly from the ramparts. The southern gate is different to the others since it has three openings, only one which is used by cars today (residents only in summer). It was outside this gate that the Danish force invaded Visby after fighting a bloody battle which you can learn more about in the museum.

There are few proofs of what happened when king Valdemar entered the city. Annually in August the residents and the tourists are celebrating "The Medieval Week".  People are probably dressed in a richer manner nowadays then what was the case during the Medieval Times. Musicians from all over Europe come to Gotland during the event, clowns are jesting and the mayors (from both Sweden and Germany) show their power when thousands of people walk through the city. This medieval festival has become a new tradition, and 2013 will be the 30th year when people dress up in clothes that can inspire others to join in the following years to learn their history. The photos show a lot of this.


Author: Göran Smitterlau



Was it really with the bows in their hands the citiziens welcomed Valdemar Atterdag? Here is one of many history events where 'Wisby Bågskyttar' prepares to fight.
Reconstruction of 'The Snäckgärds gate'
from 2009

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