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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Last Stronghold of Paganism at Old Uppsala in Sweden

 Background of Old Uppsala

Old Uppsala is situated in the valley of the River Flyris, surrounded by working homesteads on cultivated plains. The story of Old Uppsala, featured in the medieval writings of Adam of Bremen, was described as the last stronghold of paganism.

The center of Uppsala was framed by an enormous temple called the Temple at Uppsala , in it containing magnificent idols of the Æsir gods. The temple was removed during the 11th century when Christianity arrived and a Christian church was constructed on the archaeological site instead. It later became the archbishopric of Sweden from the latter part of the 12th century to the end of the 13th century.

Old Uppsala’s most distinctive feature, although there are many, is the burial mounds amounting to 3000 in number. Many of the mounds have been covered by farmland. Among these mounds are the Royal Mounds, situated in close proximity to the Christian church.

History of Old Uppsala

During pre-historic times, the Kings of Sweden were said to call Old Uppsala their home. In fact, according to Scandinavian history, Old Uppsala was said to be the original home of the Yngling Dynasty.

The site thrived until the Middle Ages, boasting political meetings for the “Ting of the Swedes (general assembly). The general assembly convened annually so that the king could summon individuals to war. Later on during the 13th and 14th centuries Old Uppsala became a significant economic, trade, and religious center.

Archaeology at Old Uppsala

Thousands of artifacts have been excavated in the mounds by archaeologists, thus explaining many questions about the people that once called Old Uppsala their home. Archaeologists and Historians believe that the Royal Mounds were the burial site for the kings during the 6th century, established as a “symbol for divinity and power”.

When the West Mound was excavated in 1874, a shaft was dug down to the bottom of the mound. Picture Courtesy of  Swedish National Heritage Board

Today in Uppsala

Old Uppsala is a wonderful site for exploration, even today. You can look around the mounds, explore the Gamla museum, and look inside the church that stands today. The museum itself is a wonderful avenue to experience the history of Old Uppsala, as it represents the last stronghold of paganism.

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