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Vikings and Christians

Gripsholm, about an hour's drive from Stockholm, dates back a thousand years, into the pre-Christian past of Sweden. Located on the shores of Lake Mälaren, it can be reached by train, bus or (in the summer) coal-fired steamer, the SS Mariefred. "Holm" means "island," so "Gripsholm" means the island of Grip (the name of the family that owned the area many hundreds of years ago).

This Viking runestone is located outside the entrance to Gripsholm Castle. It is of pre-Christian origin (Vikings erected runestones in the Christian era, too), erected by a mother to honor her lost son. The runes are located within the design of a snake, and the message reads, in part, that her son ventured south to "feed the eagles" (kill his enemies).

This snake design was a popular one for Viking runestones. During the Christian era, runestones almost invariably included a cross.

Roughly half of all the runestones discovered have been found in the region around Gripsholm.

Technically, the name of this Swedish castle town is Mariefred, or in Latin, Maria's Pax (Maria's Peace), the name of the monastary built here roughly eight centuries ago. This is the "new church" in Mariefred, completed in 1624.

The massive, fortress-like construction of the church is typical of the time: at first, the churches had to be defended against non-Christians. During the Reformation, the churches needed defense against other Christians.


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Photos (c) 1997 Lawrence I. Charters

Revised October 25, 1997 lic
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