Sigtuna, Sweden – the cradle of modern Sweden, an Introduction

His ascent to the throne was bloody and convoluted, because he was not meant to be the king. Erik was a co-lord in the Scandinavia territory of Uppland, uncle to Styrbjörn and brother of the other Viking co-lord Olof Björnsson.

Sweden UpplandUppland (Wikipedia)

Things seemed to moving on fine with the small Viking kingdom trudging along nicely, with a mixture of agriculture, raids and trade.

Then Olof died.

But Olof did not die of old age, he was poisoned to death. The scandal rocked the people and whispers abound. But a new co-king had to be appointed.

Then 12 years old, Björn approached Erik to ask to be appointed co-king.

“Well, we can wait till you are older, for now focus on growing up… let’s speak again in 4 years, when you are a real man…”

“But…”

“This is in your best interest, Björn … no buts”

For four years, Erik ruled alone as king, then just as Björn turned 16, he got into a fight with a courtier. It was a celebratory event and everyone was drinking merrily.

Stockholm Historiska 7

“Owww!”

A courtier had accidentally hit Björn in the nose with the drinking horn.

“How dare you hit me in the head, you fool! Take that… how dare you… what guts… stand up…”

“Don’t play dead.”

The courtier died and the Thing (the name of the Viking assembly) decided that Björn was not fit to be king.

“Leave Björn… no, Styrbjörn the unruly and quarrelsome son of Olof.”

Erik sent Styrbjörn off and made his own infant son co-king, effectively declaring himself sole-ruler of the Kingdom. Styrbjörn would return in 984 to take attempt to take back his crown, but would be slain by Erik and his troops in the Battle of Fýrisvellir.

Sweden Battle of Fýrisvellir Sweden Battle of Fýrisvellir (Wikipedia)

Years before that decisive battle, the new king decided to begin his reign but establishing a new city and capital. He looked out and chose Sigtuna. That devision gave birth to Sigtuna in 970 AD.

Sigtuna grew and grew. It was the place to make a fortune and soon the people in the established town of Birka moved enmasse to the new city.

Sweden Sigtuna 1Prior to the establishment of a city, Sigtuna was the site of many legends, most prominently the story of the Norse god Odin, who was thought to have lived in the old town of Sigtuna.

Odin is a widely popular Norse god. Odin is associated with healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet. He is also thought to oversee the afterlife world of Valhalla and to bring people to it.

The old town today continues the same town plane as in the 10th century, with a newer road paved just above the same old road that housed the original dwellings.

Sweden Sigtuna 2 Sweden Sigtuna 3 Sweden Sigtuna 4

The Sigtuna of Erik the Victorious was different though. It was Christianised. King Erik was a pagan king sympathetic to Christianity while his son and eventual successor Olof Skötkonung was a Christian who allowed Catholic churches and missions to he established in the city. Respecting individual choice, the religion was not forced on the people and Norse Paganism existed side by side with Chrisitianity until 1130.

Sweden Sigtuna 5

There are ruins of old churches, the above is the St Olof Church ruins, dating to the 12th century. Also found in this town is an example of how the new religion and the Viking tradition coexisted. Such as a Christianised ruinstone sitting outside the present day church (St Mary’s) that was completed in 1247 (no typo).

Sweden Sigtuna 6

The picturesque town overlooks Lake Malaren, granting most individuals living in the town a grand view of nature.

Sweden Sigtuna 7 Sweden Sigtuna 8 Sweden Sigtuna 9Sigtuna became a prize and the original city was razed to the ground in 1183 by raiders . The resilient town was however rebuilt and continued to thrive until 1300 when Stockholm, built around Gamla Stan, and Uppsala grew in prominence.

Sweden Sigtuna 10

Since then, Sigtuna’s fortunes have been on a progressive decline. The population declined steadily over centuries. There were so few people that that by the 18th century, the Mayor of Sigtuna – Eri Kihlman built a town hall that has the distinction of being the smallest in the whole of Europe (literally two small rooms).

Sweden Sigtuna 11 Sweden Sigtuna 12

In the 19th century the city held less people than a village with merely 600 residents. The construction of Arlanda Airport in the region gave Sigtuna a new lease of life and the city has been revitalised. Arlanda Airport is the main airport for Stockholm and Uppsala and therefore the largest airport in Sweden

This small town holds many secrets waiting to be discovered.

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