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The Middle Ages gave the people of Gotland a lot of advantages compared to other people around the Baltic Sea with its central position. The town of Visby became an attractive goal for people with other intentions than trading for hundred of years. As mentioned earlier, a lot of traders from other countries settled in the town.

  Around 1250, the city of Visby began to build a 6 meters high wall, but at that time it had only 4 large towers in strategic locations. The oldest part now called the "Kruttornet" (Gunpowder Tower), which was built in 1166. But many reasons gave citizens thoughts about something bigger, and they were rich.

 The war 1288 between the citiziens of Visby, supported by the Germans, and the people on the countryside, supported by knights from Estonia, gave the citizens of Visby a reason to continue the work with the wall. This time the enlargement gave them an 11 meters high city wall with towers. And between the big towers of defence the citizens of Visby even built sadeltowers hanging upon the wall. All together the city wall became 3,4 km, and the last big strengening was made in the 1350s and the following decades to make the city wall stronger and 3-4 meters higher. Paradoxically, it was the parishs of the countryside that had to build the big towers. If one parish was small, they could do the build together with other parishes.

 The wall had 29 big ground-towers, you can still see 27 of the towers today, completed with 22 sadeltowers. Of the later ones, only 9 are still intact. The towers had 3 or 4 floors where the soldiers could fight from, and on the backside of the city wall the towers were connected with scaffolds made of wood. Remarkably the strongest part of the city wall is built as defence against the farmers of Gotland, and not from attacks towards the sea. The wall on the land side is also built with a more modern technology than the early wall construction of the lake side. They have not been so careful with the choice of boulders. What you can also see today is that the lake side 1.4 km long wall has sunk due to it being built on sand gravel.

 Several mass-graves have been found outside the city wall. The invasion of Gotland by Valdemar Atterdag started with a battle during 2 days in Mästerby where about 800 peasents were killed. No graves have been found yet, but lots of objects suggest a battle. And it ended with a battle just outside the city wall the year 1361. The place is named Korsbetningen. One of the mass-graves is saved for future excavations. You can read more about it by using "Battle of Visby"" in the menu.
We must not forget to mention the battle at Fjäle in Mästerby, which took place a few days before and the death of 800 farmers. In 1365, Sjællandske Krøike mentions battles in the countryside before the troops came to Visby, Strelow in 1633 more specifically two battles in Mästerby.
But do we have any castles on Gotland? The answer is no. During the Middle Ages we had an extra defence, Visborgs Slott (castle), connected to the city wall. Visborgs Slott was blowed up by Danes the year 1679, when Gotland already had passed to Sweden. This destroyed castle has its own story to tell, including pirates.


mass graves

 A copy of an armor made of leather and plates of iron. Different models were found in the mass graves outside the city wall, many of the armors (about 50) have been reproduced by Margareta and Göran Hoas, Västerhejde. Many of the models can be seen at the Museum of Gotland in Visby. There is also a big model of how Visby looked like during The Medieval Times.



In a park behind the north part of the city wall, you can see a little model that shows how the wall probably looked like more than 700 years ago, and behind it what is left today. Except for this little part part the wall is in good condition. During these centuries several of the towers have been used as storerooms. 'Dalmanstornet', one of the bigger towers, got a roof made of red fire bricks the year 1784. And recently the same tower was completed with a bridge over the moat near the city wall. Actually there were no water filled moats around the city wall. The material made of limestone was taken from the surroundings, and the natural moats gave the town a double defence. The moats around some parts of the walled city are named Nordergravar and Östergravar. (north moats and east moats).

The model of the gate is made by Henry Hallroth.

Author: Göran Smitterlau
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