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Medieval Visby and Gotland

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Gotland was a very distinct region of Scandinavia, with settlements consisting of only single farms but without a landed gentry. Nevertheless the local resources were aboundant. Many farms included masonry houses and many of the parish churches were successively rebuilt into very large monuments. In the same way, Visby was unique among cities in northern Europe. Still today ruins of ten huge churches and about 125 masonry warehouses from 1200-1350 are preserved in the city, and probably 400-500 stone houses were originally built during that period. The best parallels to Visby are found very far away, in central and southern Europe. Gotland and Visby were economically, socially and culturally closely linked to each other, although the competition between city and countryside resulted in a unique civil war in 1288. Visby gained the status of an independent city, but from the Danish conquest in 1361 and onwards the island as well as the city were successively more controlled by external powers. In the late Middle Ages trade routes changed as well, leading to a clear decline of the island and the city. In 1645, when Gotland was ceded to Sweden, it was a poor and marginal province.

Published: Dec 1, 2022