Medieval Church Demolished, Rune Stones Found

i-39c6f1f64b84c1911268a646f129009b-Hogbydorr.jpg

Högby near Mjölby in Östergötland is a magical place because of a serious lack of historical sensitivity. In 1876 (which is really late as these things go in Sweden) the locals demolished their little 12th century church and built a new bigger one a mile to the south. This meant that the parish centre of a millennium or so became a backwater and has not been built over later. It’s completely rural, abutting a farm’s back yard, very quiet. All that remains of the church is the churchyard wall and one of Östergötland’s finest rune stones that was taken out of the sacristy wall. Some fine portal stonework and a 13th century door is in the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. Two more carved stones were found and re-erected nearby.

i-c785590f83dcb262c25433185bc1d215-Hogbystenen.jpgOn the big rune stone, dating from about AD 1010-1050, Torgärd’s poetic commemoration of her maternal uncles can be read.

Torgärd erected this stone after Assur, her mother’s brother. He met his end in the East in Greece.

The good farmer Gulle
had five sons:
Fell at Föret [Uppsala?]
did the brave fighter Åsmund.
Assur met his end
to the East in Greece.
Halvdan was
on the island killed. [Bornholm?]
KÃ¥re died at the Cape. [Zealand?]
Dead is also Boe.
Torkel carved the runes.

In all likelihood, the inscription is intended to legitimise Torgärd’s claim to Gulle’s inheritance. Since all her maternal uncles are dead, Torgärd argues, their unnamed sister becomes the heir, and Torgärd inherits her mother.

By the time her descendants decided to add a sacristy to the church, Torgärd’s claim was no longer controversial, but she was probably remembered as a matron of the lineage, possibly its first Christian member. And so her rune stone was made part of the structure.

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2 thoughts on “Medieval Church Demolished, Rune Stones Found

  1. There are a few nice photos of the romanesque church in Högby taken just before it being demolished – such a great loss…

    / Johan

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