First, all you can focus on is the silence. When will they come? How far has he gotten? Are they within the walls yet? When you are just about to lose hope, that’s when you see the first one. It’s always 1 lone peasant that comes stumbling through, to warn the others. His clothes are torn and he is covered in blood. It is unclear whether the blood is his own, or someone else’s. It’s most likely a mix of both.
At first you struggle to hear him, but then slowly, the others start tumbling through. ‘He is coming,’ they whisper. ‘He is coming for you!’ they are now screaming and panic is taking over. Valdemar Atterdag is within the walls of Visby, and he is coming for the town.
After the peasants have stumbled through, the fleet of loyal followers to Valdemar Atterdag begin their graceful entrance into the town, the town that does not yet belong to them. The knights begin to appear as the crowd starts chanting ‘down with the Danes’. And eventually Valdemar Atterdag arrives, high on his horse, holding the mighty key to Visby in his hands. With a smirk on his face, he rides through the town that he has now conquered. ‘Boo’ the crowd continues.
Medieval week has begun on Gotland.
Medieval week in Visby began in 1984, and has attracted people from far and wide. It began as a way to educate people about the vast and fascinating history of the medieval town of Visby, imagining the time period by being able to dress, eat, sleep and live like they did in Visby during Valdemar Atterdag’s reign. This idea still lives on today, and it is just as relevant and thoroughly enjoyed.
Visby is the capital city of Gotland, Sweden’s largest island. With a population of 58,595 over its 176kmx52km, 23,600 people live in Visby. Gotland became a commercial centre early on, and Visby was the most important Hanseatic city in the Baltic Sea.
In 1361, Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark invaded the island, and the battle at Mästerby commenced. This resulted in the death of 1,500 Gotlandic farmers, and the Danes won control of the island. It wasn’t until 1645 that Gotland came under Swedish rule, this was lost in 1676, regained in 1679, and lost once more in 1808. Since 1808, Gotland has once again, been Swedish.
It is this intrinsic history, which has led to ‘Medeltidsveckan’ on Gotland. Commencing in the first week of August, the week has much to offer.
Battle of Visby
Battle of Visby aims to recreate the battle in Mästerby and Visby in 1361. The aim of this recreation is to spread knowledge about the historic events. It is also recreated to bring attention to the trauma that came to the locals of Gotland after the battles.
Camping in ‘Tältbyn’
Camping in ‘tent town’ provides you with an authentic place to sleep during Medieval week. This provides you with a beautiful location, right in the centre of all the action of the week. This is not just a place to stay, it is a true medieval experience.
The medieval tournaments are often the highlight of any visitors time at Medieval week. Watch the country’s best riders as they fight a noble fight to be the best knight and to win their lady. On the bleachers the crowd gets excited as they cheer for their favourite knight.
The medieval fair sits at the very heart of the week. Here, in the midst of all the people, you will be able to see leather crafts, armour, jewellery, fabrics and period clothing. To add on to all that, you can also see different acts performing, enjoy an authentic meal, or why not take a bath in one of the barrels?
As far as I can remember, my family and I have enjoyed the celebrations of Medieval week. When I was younger we would always dress up; I would be the daughter of a merchant, my brother a dedicated knight fighting for the survival of the town, my mother the wife of a man with high enough status to dress in colours, but not so high to wear fur, my grandma would outrank us all in her extensive jewellery and deep red, embroidered dress and head piece.
Medieval week provides an opportunity for anyone to imagine what it was like in the medieval times and to fully appreciate the historical beauty of Gotland. 1 week, 500 events and over 40,000 visitors; laugh, learn and enjoy life to its fullest at Medeltidsveckan on Gotland, 4-11 of August.
Learn more about this historical event here.